Amethyst is the most valuable crystal of the quartz family. Deep medium purple with rose-colored flashes are ideal, however it ranges from pale lilac to rich deep purple. Amethyst is also found in a light minty green.

It derives its name from a Greek word meaning “not intoxicated”. The ancient Greeks believed that whoever wore an amethyst or drank from an amethyst chalice would not fall victim to intoxication. It is also said to have a sobering effect on those over-excited by love’s passion. It has symbolized peace, protection and tranquility. Some say it will prevent baldness and improve complexion, while protecting from treason and deceit. Because royalty has always adored the color purple, amethysts abound in the ornaments of ancient Greeks and Egyptians, and in the British Crown Jewels.

According to ancient myth, Bacchus, the god of wine, was so enraged over a slight by the goddess Diana that he vowed that the first person to enter his forest would be devoured by his tigers. This hapless mortal turned out to be the beautiful virgin Amethyst,
who was on her way to worship at the shrine of Diana. As the ferocious beasts sprang on her, she called on Diana for help and was turned into pure white stone. In repentance for his cruelty, Bacchus poured the juice of grapes over the stone and gave it its purplish-violet color. In memory of the transformed nymph, the stone that bears her name was endowed with the ability to protect the wearer from the evils of intoxicating drink. The custom of drinking wine from cups of amethyst evolved in the belief that the gems would ensure one remained sober.

The Amethyst was credited with many other extraordinary attributes. Among its reputed benefits was an ability to quicken the intelligence and make the owner more successful in business, protect the soldier and assure victory, help hunters, guard against contagious diseases, and control evil thoughts. To men, the amethyst promised sober judgment and industry; to women, lofty thoughts and religious love.

Royal purple

Catherine the Great was so fond of the amethyst that she sent thousands of workers to search for the gem in the Urals; the stones they brought back were prominent among her royal jewels. Many other monarchs admired the amethyst and identified with its supposed power. This admiration is the source of the expression “royal purple.” The amethyst appears in the coronation regalia of England, in the king’s scepter and in the coronet of the Prince of Wales.

The amethyst, too, has had religious associations. It was among the gems in Aaron’s breastplate and is worn by many bishops in the Roman Catholic Church.

The most valued hues of amethyst range from deep purplish-red to purple-red. Deep, evenly colored specimens are particularly desirable. The principal sources of fine-quality amethyst include Brazil, Uruguay and the Ural Mountains. Other areas of the world that have produced important quantities are Sri Lanka, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, the United States, Madagascar and Iran.