Amethyst, the birthstone of February, is a variety of quartz that carries a spectacular purple color. For centuries, Amethyst has been associated with many myths and legends as well as religions in numerous cultures. Not only is this gem known for its beautiful color, but it is also widely available in different shapes and sizes, making it more affordable.
Amethyst compliments both warm and cool colors, helping it look fabulous when set in both yellow and white metals. For me, I love this stone because it goes with every type of fabric and color in my wardrobe! Not surprisingly, I have done several custom pieces featuring amethyst stones, and they are some real showstoppers. But don’t take my word for it – read on to learn how truly magnificent February’s birthstone is!
What is Amethyst?
A type of quartz, amethyst crystals can be huge, weighing more than 100 pounds, and sometimes formed in hollow geodes big enough to stand in. Amethysts come in colors ranging from deep purple to the palest shades of pastel lavender and even pink. The most valuable hue is a strong reddish purple shade, but we love every shade of amethyst. Most amethysts have excellent clarity with no inclusions visible to the naked eye and are available in a variety of cuts and carat weights.
With a score of 7 on the Mohs hardness scale (10 being most durable), amethyst is strong enough for rings and daily wear, but care should be taken to protect it from being scratched by rough materials. These gems can also be damaged by some acids and alkaline solutions (often found in household cleaners). Clean your amethyst jewelry with mild soap and warm water. Ultrasonic cleaners are safe unless an amethyst has had fractures filled (which is rare), but steam cleaning is not recommended.
History & Lore
Gorgeous purple amethysts have been prized since the time of the ancient Greeks. Because of their grape-like color, the Greeks associated these gems with the wine god, Bacchus. They believed that wearing an amethyst could protect you from drunkenness. In fact the word “amethystos” meant “not drunk” in ancient Greek. According to gemstone lore, amethyst jewelry keeps its wearer clear-headed and clever. Even artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci wrote that amethysts enhance intelligence and protect against evil thoughts.
While various cultures have associated amethyst gemstones with peace, balance, and courage, and ascribed to it the ability to cure insomnia and relieve pain, because of its rare beauty and the expense it took to create the rich color for fabric, purple has long been considered a regal color. Amethysts frequently appear in royal and religious jewelry. For example, Catherine the Great (Empress Catherine II of Russia, 1729–1796) had a penchant for the gem and decked herself in amethyst necklaces, earrings, and other ornaments. The famous jewelry connoisseur Wallis, Duchess of Windsor (1896–1986), made a memorable statement when she wore a lavish Cartier-designed amethyst bib necklace to a gala in Versailles in 1953 (bottom right image in the collage above).
Until the 19th century, amethysts were as valuable and expensive as emeralds, sapphires, and rubies, but then a large deposit of amethysts was discovered in Brazil. Although this balanced the gems’ financial value, the trove of Brazilian gems allowed large amethysts to be used more frequently in jewelry. They are often found in eye-catching cocktail rings from the Art Deco and Retro eras.
Kristen Baird Jewelry & Amethyst
Amethyst Pear Redesign: What to do with a beautiful pear-cut amethyst that has been sitting in a container for years? Give it to me and let me work my magic! That's exactly what my client did, and wow, was she surprised when her husband gifted her this one-of-a-kind ring featuring one of her beloved gemstones that she collected from her home country, Brazil, and just in time for their anniversary! I created a two-toned design featuring the sparkling pear-cut amethyst surrounded by six hearts and arrows cut diamonds set in 18K yellow gold for a little extra dazzle. Click here to see the full story...
Amethyst Upgrade: For this piece, the client's wife saw my work and fell in love with my sterling silver ripple rings but wanted to have one created in yellow gold and made to fit five existing diamonds and a Brazilian amethyst that she had. What a great challenge! I started by making a mock up in silver to test the sizing and placement. Then, onto gold for the real deal! This piece came out so beautifully and what a great way to use existing materials to create a new, fresh piece of jewelry that will be worn and enjoyed! Be sure to check it out...
I use amethyst in every collection that I have, including my gold and platinum collections. It’s easy to work with, gorgeous in color, and truly a crowd-pleaser. Plus, it works well in all the metals: silver, rose gold, yellow gold, white gold, and platinum. Over the years, I've found amazing sources for special cuts, shapes, shades, and variations, along with sizes from tiny and HUGE! For those who like something different than the "royal purple" variety, there is also pink amethyst with a lilac tone and green amethyst with a minty tone. Truly something for everyone with this spectacular gem!