The February birthstone, amethyst has many popular symbolic and folkloric associations both ancient and modern, from love and spirituality to supernatural protection. Read on to learn more about amethyst symbolism and legends and find some inspiration for your own jewelry pieces.
Rebel Alliance ring

Elegant, feminine, and wonderfully nerdy, this perfect ring for a lover of the Rebel Alliance features a semi-bezel set 6.5 mm round amethyst. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

The Story of Bacchus and Amethyst

One of the most well-known of those protections involves amethyst’s purported power to prevent drunkenness. A myth about Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, has promoted this belief. The story goes as follows:

Long ago, a beautiful maiden was on her way to worship at the Temple of Diana. However, she had the misfortune of crossing paths with the god of wine, Bacchus. Angered since he’d just suffered some slight, he’d vowed to take revenge on the next person he met. He spied the maid and unleashed his two guardian tigers upon her. As the great beasts bounded towards the hapless lass, the goddess Diana intervened. To spare her such a terrible fate, she turned her into a pure, clear stone.

Immediately, remorse seized Bacchus. To atone for his actions, he poured his wine over the stone, staining the crystal a deep, violet hue. And so, the maiden Amethyst lent her name to the crystal.

Although presented in a Classical guise, this myth only dates from the Renaissance. The French poet Remy Belleau created this story in 1576 as part of a poem on gemstone beliefs. Nevertheless, the idea that the stone could guard against drunkenness does go back to the Ancient Greeks. Amethystos means “not drunk” in Ancient Greek. They believed you could drink all night and remain sober if you had an amethyst in your mouth or on your person.

paperweight sculpture - amethyst symbolism

Amethyst symbolism, particularly its connection to alcohol and wounds, may be reinforced by the gemstone’s purple color range. This 19th-century paperweight in the Fersman Mineralogical Museum features amethyst grapes as well as serpentine and marble. Photo by Shakko. Licensed under CC By-SA 3.0.

Amethyst Symbolism and Spirituality

Perhaps this association with calming physical passions led some early Christians to associate the amethyst with Christ. The gem’s purple colors represented purity of spirit. Its purplish and reddish hues represented the chastening and purifying effects of suffering. Some believed the colors alluded to the wounds and suffering of Christ. Thus, amethysts were used to aid the healing of wounds.

amethyst symbolism - intaglio

This amethyst intaglio from ca 212 CE featured a portrait of the Roman Emperor Caracalla. Sometime in the Byzantine period, it was changed into a portrait of St. Peter with the addition of an inscription and a cross. Carving from the collection of the Cabinet des Médailles in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Photo by Clio20. Licensed under CC By-SA 3.0.

Many cultures find spiritual overtones in amethysts. Often viewed as a stone of peace, some believe amethyst’s calming presence produces soothing dreams by bringing the dreamer more in tune with the Divine. This clarity and peacefulness also extends to the waking mind. Amethysts are said to help the mind flow freely in both mental and metaphysical dimensions. Many psychics keep this gem with their tarot cards or other oracular instruments.

Amethysts and Protective Amulets

The Ancient Egyptians worked amethysts into amulets as both a form of prayer and protection against harm. While later Egyptian artisans created elaborate and breathtaking pieces, early jewelry makers kept their designs more practical. At first, carnelian and beryl gems as well as amethysts were carved into the shapes of animals. Most likely, early magicians designed these devices as protective fetishes. In later times, an organized priesthood produced these amulets.

pendant drop - amethyst symbolism

“Hephzibahs Pendulum,” featuring a 34-ct faceted amethyst drop. Photo and jewelry by Melissa Ingram. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

People have valued and worked amethysts for millennia. An ages-old cure for an ages-old affliction, rubbing a moistened amethyst on pimples is said to cure them.

amethyst symbolism - crystal

Amethyst crystal. Photo by Chris Bartnik. Licensed under CC By-ND 2.0.

The February Birthstone

Amethyst symbolism is a busy field. Ruled by the planet Jupiter, it’s the zodiacal gem for those born under the sign of Pisces. Both traditional and modern birthstone lists include amethyst as the February birthstone.

claddagh amethyst and opal ring - amethyst symbolism

A claddagh ring with an amethyst heart and a black opal crown. © CustomMade. Used with permission. Cropped to show details.

On the subject of February, according to legend, St. Valentine wore an amethyst ring carved with Cupid’s likeness. This may seem an unlikely pairing, given the gem’s reputation for calming passions. However, keep in mind that in Medieval times, chaste love was highly valued as true love. Amethysts signified this vision of love.

Since we started with a poetic tale, let’s part with a poem on amethyst, author unknown:

The Amethyst.

From passion and from care kept free

Shall Pisces’ children ever be

Who wear so all the world may see

The Amethyst

comet brooch

“Comet Brooch,” silver and amethyst. Photo and jewelry by Mauro Cateb. Licensed under CC By 2.0.