Amethyst is basically a quartz crystal that has taken on a purple hue due to the presence of impurities. It used to be numbered amongst the Precious gems, and indeed you’ll find it set prominently in the British Crown Jewels, but it lost much of its value due to the discovery of large deposits in South America and other sites around the world. The shade and quality of the crystals varies from location to location with the best colours coming from the Ural Mountains and bearing the name ‘Deep Siberian’ within the jewellery trade.
The name Amethyst comes from the Greek for ‘not drunken’ and relates to various Greek myths involving horny gods chasing chaste virgins (as you’d expect). Wikipedia has a neat summary if you’re interested but the upshot is that it was believed that amethyst was an antidote to drunkenness and, as such, was used to make drinking vessels. These days I think that this would be seen as missing the point.
Through the ages it has religious significance within Judaism and Christianity. It was one of the twelve gems on the Breastplate of Aaron the first High Priest of Israel (Exodus 39), and was the stone associated with the tribe of Dan. Amethyst has been used within the Christian Church to symbolise Christ himself and also the attributes of piety and chastity. This, perhaps, owes something to its earlier association with sobriety, and control of the appetites.
There are those who believe that amethyst has the power to protect you from seduction and various other ills. I am not numbered amongst them. I gave my wife an amethyst ring some years back and I have not noticed any appreciable impediment.
To me it’s a beautiful stone with a rich colour that is also subtle enough to blend well with many other shades making it a great choice for every-day wear. It also has the benefit of being a classic stone and has not all together lost its association with the Precious Stones in the minds of the many.
Personally, I tend to use the rich, deep purples but, as with most other natural gem stones, there is a range of hues available, from the merest hint of pink to almost black. If you would like to have a piece made with a specific shade then please let me know and I’ll try and find something to suit your preference.
As a quartz, amethyst is hardness 7 and so is traditionally cut with facets although stones of good colour and clarity also look great cut en cabochon.
You can click the thumbnails below to see a selection of pieces that are set with amethyst.