Amethyst: Birthstone for February
A beautiful yet affordable gemstone, amethyst has a rich history. The deep purple color of amethyst has been associated with wine for millennia. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word amethyst literally means “not drunken”; the Greek word root is μέθυ, translated as “wine”. The ancient Greeks believed that wearing amethyst prevented the wearer from becoming intoxicated. Not surprisingly, the gem was also closely associated with Bacchus, the god of wine.
Amethyst is a variety of quartz (SiO2). The purple coloration was formerly attributed to manganese, but it is now known that iron impurities are primarily responsible for the beautiful purple color; it is also possible to produce this coloration, using irradiation. Amethyst can also be grown artificially.
Amethyst was once considered an extremely valuable gemstone, but the discovery of large deposits of amethyst in Brazil lowered the gem’s value drastically. According to the Gemological Institute of America, the main sources for amethyst are Brazil, Canada, the United States (Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin), Uruguay, and Zambia, with Brazil leading in production. The size of deposits is large, as is the size of many individual specimens. Guinness World Records lists the largest amethyst geode (found in China) at nearly 29,000 pounds (13,000 kilograms), and measuring 3 meters x 1.8 meters x 2.2 meters. The GIA Museum has displayed a single amethyst crystal weighing 164 pounds. Thus, one can find large specimens that are very reasonably priced, when compared with rubies, emeralds and sapphires.
In terms of coloration, the GIA indicates that “the finest amethyst color is a strong reddish purple or purple with no visible color zoning. Dealers prefer strongly saturated reddish purple to dark purple, as long as the stone is not so dark that it reduces brightness. If the color is too dark, an amethyst might look black under dim lighting conditions.”
Amethyst is a most fitting gemstone for February, as historical accounts indicate that Saint Valentine wore an amethyst ring.
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