Amethyst, the February birthstone, has adorned the nobility for centuries. Now it’s in reach of most consumers. Here’s how to pick a stunning amethyst for the king or queen of your heart – or treat yourself to a royal present.
Amethyst is the purple variety of the quartz mineral species. Its color ranges from a strongly saturated violetish purple to reddish purple in fine quality gems; to weak grayish violet in commercial quality stones. Natural irradiation acting on trace amounts of iron in its crystal structure causes amethyst’s characteristic color. Amethyst also commonly shows color zoning, which often occurs as angular bands of darker to lighter purple. The saturated purple color is typically limited to the tips of amethyst crystals, while the rest of the crystal fades to colorlessness. Cutting an amethyst crystal often produces a few high-quality, deep purple stones and many more low-quality, light-colored stones.
The name amethyst derives from the Greek amethystos, which means “a remedy against drunkenness,” a benefit long ascribed to the purple gem. It’s no coincidence that methy is the word for wine, typically of a color very similar to that of this gem. Amethyst was also believed to keep the wearer clear headed and quick witted in battle and business affairs. Renaissance Europeans thought it calmed lovers overrun by passion.
Amethyst is the gem traditionally given for the sixth wedding anniversary. Wear it in celebration of your wedding nuptials or as your February birthstone and you’ll be in royal company: Catherine the Great (Empress Catherine II of Russia; 1729–1796) had a penchant for the gem, and decked herself in necklaces, earrings and other amethyst-adorned ornaments.