When we think about amethyst, its extraordinary color comes to mind. For February birthdays, that color is purple — a rich, sumptuous, radiant purple. A royal purple.
From its earliest discovery, amethyst’s sumptuous shade has cast a spell, one that bewitches even today. Its gorgeous hue represents royalty, passion, daring, fashion, and dreaminess.
Most Amethyst came to Europe all the way from Brazil. It was scarce, very expensive, and considered a precious stone – at times even more valuable than diamonds. Then in 1799, large amethyst deposits were found in Russia’s Ural Mountains, and amethyst’s price declined. Still, only the wealthy could afford it.
Today, amethyst is plentiful and modestly priced. Yet its allure remains whether featured alone or accented by a wide array of gems – everything from pink sapphire, emerald, and diamond to citrine, peridot, and morganite.
Though most sources refer to the Greek meaning of amethyst — “away from drink” or “not drunk,” — both its Arab name, al-hilma, and its Hebrew name alhama, mean “dream stone.” To wear one meant you would dream, though it’s unclear whether or not you had to wear it at night!
Our most ancient amethysts come from Minos, an island in the Aegean Sea, and they date back to ca. 3100 B.C. They are polished cabochons set in gold, a combination that remains popular to this day.
Amethyst’s royal lineage begins in Egypt’s 12th Dynasty. An amethyst and gold heart scarab was discovered in the tomb of Amenemhet II, 1919-1885 B.C. Amethyst beads were found in the tomb of King Tut. Cleopatra herself wore an amethyst ring engraved with the image of the Persian god Mithras.
England’s oldest Crown Jewel is an amethyst worn in the 11th century by Edward the Confessor. Queen Elizabeth I had a highly prized amethyst necklace, and to this day, superb amethysts decorate coronation regalia.
Catherine the Great of Russia had a passion for amethyst so intense that she sent thousands of workers into the Ural Mountains to search for deposits. Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for her, large deposits were found in 1799, three years after her death.
The Passion of Purple
Purple is a combination of red and blue in different proportions to achieve different shades. Making purple required great skill and was a long, difficult, and costly process. The stunning result that yielded a wealth of shades was available only to those who could afford it: kings, nobles, priests and magistrates around the Mediterranean. Royalty and purple: it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
Over time purple became associated with daring change: women’s suffrage, feminism, counterculture and free expression.
Today, purple is for everyone. Is Amethyst your favorite gemstone? Do you have a favorite story about amethyst? Share it with us by leaving a comment!