February Birthstone: Amethyst
Amethyst, the February birthstone, comes in beautiful purple colors and makes a durable jewelry stone. Learn more about this wonderful gem.
8 Minute Read
What Color is Amethyst?
Amethyst colors can range from pale lilac to deep reddish purple. A variety of quartz, amethyst gets its color from the presence of iron, other trace elements, and natural irradiation. (Don't worry, this occurs underground over millions of years and poses no health hazards).
How Do You Judge Amethyst Color?
Generally speaking, people want amethysts for their purple color. Therefore, the value of a particular stone depends almost entirely on how well it shows that color.
The most prized amethyst stones feature a deeply saturated or "intense" purple color, perhaps with hints of violet or red hues. Stones with brown or bronze tinges usually have lower values. Amethyst may have light or dark tones. Most gem buyers favor darker tones.
Look for a February birthstone that has its color distributed evenly throughout the stone, without noticeably paler or darker regions or striped patterns.
What are Siberian Amethysts?
Deep purple amethysts are valued the highest, and stones with this coveted hue as well as red and blue flashes are known as "Siberian Amethysts." These gems are typically considered the most valuable of their kind. Originally, the term referred to gems of this quality from Siberia, a source now depleted. Today, the term applies to any amethyst that shows this color, regardless of the source. "Siberian quality" represents the highest grade for amethyst color.
After "Siberian," most amethysts receive grades from AAA to A. Darker stones receive AAA grades. Lighter stones receive A grades. (Keep in mind that these grades, while helpful when shopping, are not standardized. Amethyst grades and grading criteria may vary from jeweler to jeweler).
What are "Rose de France" Amethysts?
Pale, pinkish violet or lilac amethysts also have their appeal and aficionados. This color is referred to as "Rose de France." These gems can bring a light, romantic touch to your jewelry piece.
Even though most people prefer amethysts with a deep purple color (and prices reflect that), ultimately, you can choose the color that's ideal for you. After all, it's your jewelry. You should enjoy what you wear.
What are Ametrines?
On rare occasions, a quartz crystal forms that combines amethyst with citrine, the yellow/red-orange variety of quartz. The result is known as an ametrine. This gem features prominent purple and yellow or red-orange zones. Faceters cut these bi-colored gems to showcase these colors.
The History of the February Birthstone
People have used amethyst for jewelry and decorative objects for thousands of years. The Ancient Egyptians associated amethysts with the god Osiris and carved amethysts into animal-shaped amulets. In the Old Testament book of Exodus, amethyst is one of the stones in the breastplate of Aaron. The gemstone also appears as one of the foundation stones of the Heavenly City in the New Testament book of Revelation. Both these lists of Biblical gemstones contributed to the development of the modern idea of birthstones.
During the Middle Ages, royalty proudly wore amethysts because the color purple was associated with nobility. High-ranking priests also wore amethysts to represent piety. Amethysts were considered to be one of the "cardinal gems," along with diamond, sapphire, ruby, and emerald. They were often used in crowns, scepters, and other royal regalia. At this time, only people of the highest social status wore amethysts.
Over the centuries, more sources of the colorful gem were discovered, making it more available and affordable. Today, the February birthstone is one of the top choices for jewelry stones.
Amethyst Meaning and Folklore
Amethyst is not only the traditional and modern February birthstone but also the commemorative gem for sixth and seventeenth wedding anniversaries. Indeed, amethyst has strong connections to the month of February and love. According to legend, St. Valentine — whose day devoted to love we celebrate in February — wore an amethyst ring carved with Cupid's likeness.
However, amethyst's most well-known symbolic association involves the prevention of drunkenness. In fact, the name "amethyst" itself comes from the Greek word amethystos, which means "not drunk." The Ancient Greeks believed you could drink all night and remain sober if you had an amethyst in your mouth or on your person. Sometimes they even added powdered amethysts to their drink to keep them from becoming inebriated.
Perhaps as an extension of amethyst's supposed power to prevent intoxication, some people believe wearing this gem enhances fortitude and helps promote serenity, clear thoughts, and quick wit. In Yogic beliefs, amethyst is associated with the powerful Crown Chakra, located at the top of the head.
Where Does Amethyst Come From?
Amethysts are found in geodes, which are round rock formations that contain hollow cavities lined with crystals. Currently, many countries have productive deposits of amethyst. However, before the discovery of new deposits in Brazil in the 19th century, this gemstone was rare. Prior to that discovery, Russia was the leader in the global production of amethyst.
More recently, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Zambia have produced gem-quality amethysts. Other notable producers include Canada, India, Mexico, Sri Lanka, and the United States. With so many sources, the February birthstone has now become widely available.
How to Buy Amethyst Jewelry
Aside from stunning purple colors, amethysts have other properties that make them excellent jewelry stones.
Availability, Affordability, and Quality
Beautiful and abundant, amethyst can grace any type of jewelry, from mass produced pieces to the finest custom couture creations. Since amethyst crystals can grow to massive sizes, gem faceters can also cut them precisely into calibrated sizes for jewelry settings or carve them into fantastic and distinctive pieces of art. Moreover, the availability of amethyst in large sizes means its price per carat goes up just gradually as the gems increase in size. This makes the February birthstone perfect for a jewelry statement piece. You can surely find an amethyst jewelry design that fits your style (and budget) perfectly.
Since amethysts are so abundant, always choose stones with good transparency and clarity. Amethysts often contain inclusions, materials and cavities trapped within the crystal. However, you should have no trouble choosing eye-clean amethysts. That means you won't see the inclusions with the naked eye and they won't affect the stone's appearance.
You should also have no trouble finding a well-cut amethyst. Don't settle for a substandard cut. A poor cut will lower the stone's beauty and value, even if it has excellent color. Amethysts can receive brilliant cuts that enhance their brightness or other styles of cuts that emphasize deep color. Expert gem cutters will choose faceting designs that best showcase individual stones.
There's another advantage to having large quantities of stones available. Jewelers can easily assemble matching sets of amethysts for earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. When shopping for any design with multiple amethysts, look for pieces with stones with matching color, size, and cut. Of course, if you want amethysts in graduated sizes or with different colors and cuts, look for that instead. Greater availability also makes assembling sets with harmonious variations easier.
Amethysts have a Mohs hardness score of 7. That means they will resist scratches from everyday wear and tear, particularly from household dust. Although popular (and pricier) gemstones like diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds may surpass them in hardness, amethysts still make durable gemstones suitable for any type of jewelry use, including rings. In fact, with no cleavage — internal planes where the molecular bonds in the crystal are weak — amethysts are more resistant to breaking than diamonds. Just store your amethyst jewelry so it doesn't scratch against those other gemstones and your amethysts should give you a lifetime of enjoyment.
Since amethysts are heat sensitive and often contain inclusions, don't clean them in mechanical systems that use steam or ultrasound. This could damage them. Excessive heat can cause their colors to fade, and vibrations could make inclusions shatter. Instead, use a soft brush, mild detergent, and warm water. See our gemstone jewelry care guide for more cleaning recommendations.
Where to Buy Amethyst Jewelry
You can find amethyst jewelry almost anywhere, from small brick-and-mortar shops to online retailers like James Allen, Blue Nile, Angara, and CustomMade. The finest material may be sold at auction or found in collections from the world's most luxurious jewelry brands.
Frequently Asked Questions About Amethyst
Diana Jarrett GG RMV
Creative writer, author and Gemologist, Diana Jarrett is a graduate gemologist (GG GIA) and Registered Master Valuer.
Emily Frontiere is a GIA Graduate Gemologist. She is particularly experienced working with estate/antique jewelry.
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