Winter months may bring colder temperatures and less daylight, but February’s birthstone offers an attractive sparkle to brighten those dark winter days. Bolstered by passionate purples and lush lilacs, those born in February are fortunate to call amethyst their birthstone. In this latest edition of the birthstone series, we take an in-depth look at the eye-catching amethyst and see how it came to be so beloved.
Amethyst is a semi-precious variety of quartz. This purple gem is made of silicon dioxide, also called silica, with trace amounts of iron and other minerals.
Amethyst gemstones are most often found in igneous and other volcanic rocks, especially basalt, but they can occur in metamorphic and sedimentary rocks as well. You might also see amethyst and other types of quartz (like citrine, prasiolite, or ametrine) in geodes, where they grow from the inside of hollow rocks to form incredible crystalline mosaics. For quartz to display its colors, though, it needs radiation exposure. This is when it takes on those yellows, greens, and — in the case of amethyst — dazzling purples.
You might know February’s birthstone for its vivid medium purple hues, but you’ll also fall for the birthstone in its other color ranges. This semi-precious gem has a natural color range from the palest lilac to a dark purple violet. Some colors of amethyst have hints of red or blue as well. Most amethyst gemstones are a richer purple at the top, where iron concentrates, and light purple to clear at the base.
The brighter and more vivid and consistent the color, the more desirable and prized the amethyst will be. These gems can have minor brownish or rust spots or slight inclusion markings that can affect the value. Some amethyst stones have a mixture of sister quartz citrine and are called ametrine, while others, called prasiolite, have more iron in them and turn green.
Amethyst measures 7 on the Mohs scale, making it long-lasting but prone to scratches on exceptionally hard surfaces. You should also take care when storing your amethyst jewelry because strong UV light can lighten amethyst’s rich purple tones.
A History of This Dazzling Purple Gem
When you look at the history of amethyst, you find an enduring love for this purple quartz crystal. Ancient Greeks and Romans became enamored with the color of the gemstone, driving up demand. Amethyst appears in ancient records from Egypt and Greece. Physical examples of amethyst jewelry from this time period, especially pendants and carved amulets, survive today. Although amethyst is not as hard-wearing as a ruby or sapphire, its remarkable structure lends an excellent surface for long-lasting and intricate carvings that last through the ages.
The earliest known mining locations were in the Ural Mountains of Russia and the Hunsruck Mountains of Idar-Oberstein in Western Germany, with mining lasting from ancient times to the 1800s, when deposits ran dry.
With the discovery of untapped amethyst sources in the Maraba, Rio Grande do Sul, and Pau d’Arco regions of Brazil in the 1800s, amethyst went from a rare precious stone to a reliably high-quality semi-precious stone. Amethyst deposits in Brazil range from light violet to stunning medium purple.
By the 1950s, Zambian mines revealed rich caches of superior-quality amethyst, with popular opinions that these African deposits were finer than any others because of their rich purple, blue, and red tones.
Today, modern mining occurs at large scale in Brazil, Zambia, Bolivia, and Uruguay, with small mines in Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Kenya, Mexico, India, Canada, and Arizona.
Amethyst Symbolism and Meaning
The word amethyst comes from the Greek amethystos, meaning “not drunk,” or “remedy against intoxication,” and this sense of calmness, healing, and protection remains the stone’s most powerful symbolic attachment to this day.
In ancient times, amethysts were thought to offer protection from Bacchus, the god of wine, and his devious ways. The stones were also thought to give wearers focused minds and good decision-making skills in everything from war to business and interpersonal relationships.
Amethysts were only available to the wealthy because of their rarity with many prosperous citizens wearing amethysts on their clothing and as jewelry. During the Middle Ages, these purple gemstones took on new meanings of piety and celibacy, becoming the property of bishops, popes, and other religious leaders.
After the Brazilian mine discovery, amethyst became more common throughout everyday society, but never lost its symbolic resonance with healing, protection, beauty, wisdom, and serenity.
How to Wear February’s Birthstone
With high-quality amethyst gems in stable supply, you’ll have access to exceptional pieces in a variety of hues and sizes.
While historically, amethysts were most commonly used as figurines or worn as amulets, these semi-precious gems have long since earned their place in the hearts of fine jewelers everywhere. Today, amethysts can be the centerpiece of a necklace, ring, or bracelet, but also work in harmony with other semi-precious and precious gems.
Consider round-cut amethysts set in a yellow gold bracelet, or a delicate
Since amethyst gems are mined in small and large stones, they can work well in a wide variety of cuts. Some of the most popular cuts for amethyst include round, cushion, marquise, oval, emerald, pear, and triangle, but their structure and sizing makes them equally suitable for custom cuts, freeform cuts, cabochon cuts, and other intricate styling.
Amethysts have rich beauty regardless of their size and cut, and they reveal an impressive shimmer that has delighted people since ancient times. Whether adorning your finger as an engagement ring or adding sparkle to a custom-designed necklace, the amethyst is a timeless example of nature’s exceptional beauty.
If you have a February birthday or are considering a February birthstone as a gift for a loved one, be sure to check out Brinker’s selection, both online and in-store, of Amethyst fine jewelry.