Amethyst once a precious and rare crystal gem of royalty and grace, has now became just another attractive and affordable gem today due to the abundance of the top quality amethyst crystals found all over the world. It is the birthstone for people born in the month of February and hence also called as the february birthstone. This fine gemstone gets its name from a Greek word “Amethustos” which means “not drunk” after the belief that the wearer of the gem will not suffer from excess consumption of alcohol. Amethyst geodes have beautiful purple pointed crystals which are loved by collectors all over the world.
Amethyst Gemstone History and Facts
History states that at one point this gemstone was so popular that it was as important and as expensive in the market as a ruby, emerald or a sapphire. It actually goes way back to 2500 B.C. in France where Neolithic man used it for decoration. Prior to that in 3100 B.C., this gemstone was used in beads, jewelry and for seal making in Egypt and Greece.
All throughout Europe this gemstone had earned a royal appreciation till 1799. In 1799 a plentiful supply of high quality amethyst gemstones was discovered and mined in the Ural Mountains of Russia. These amethyst mines caused the price of the amethyst gemstones to decrease.
In Europe, in the middle ages, an amethyst gemstoen was believed to protect the solders in the battlefield. The ancient Greeks believed that these gems had magical powers and these beautiful gemstones were used to make medicines.
Silicon dioxide (SiO2) is the chemical composition or scientific name of amethyst gemstone. The specific gravity of this purple colored gemstone is 2.66 and the refractive index range is from 1.544 to 1.553. The hardness of the amethyst gemstone on the Mohs scale is 7.
Varieties of Amethyst
Amethyst gemstone is the most popular gem from the quartz family.
When the word amethyst is used the only color that comes to one’s mind is purple. Its color is due the presence of iron mineral in it. The color may range from a faint mauve to a glorious purple. The clear dark purple color is the one that is in most demand. It is also found in blue purple range.
Many a times amethyst gemstone is found in combination with the yellow color citrine (other variety of quartz family) and is called as Ametrine. Some green color amethysts have also been found in the Zimbabwe and Arizona and is said to get the color is due to the heat of the sun.
Amethyst gemstone is found in the market in all most all shapes and sizes one can imagine. It is cut in beads as well as faceted stones. Amethyst crystals are custom cut artistically by many. Beautiful carved amethysts are used in designer amethyst jewelry like amethyst rings, amethyst necklaces, amethyst bracelets etc.
Carved idols of gods and goddess are also a popular choice for many buyers. Amethyst geodes and roughs are used as decorative items and to do away negative vibrations in feng shui.
This gem is found in all possible sizes, right from very small cut gems to large carved pieces. This gem is often faceted into different fancy cuts and is sold all over the world in a variety of designs.
Color zoning (i.e. uneven spread of color) is the main feature of the amethyst crystal. The inclusions which may be seen in this violet purple quartz crystals are most commonly feathers made up of negative cavities. A quite common imperfection in amethyst crystal is a mark like a thumb print or tiger stripes.
Price, Cost and Buying of Natural Amethyst Gemstone
This crystalline semi precious purple colored gemstone is also not very expensive to buy. When buying an amethyst one must look for an intense and uniform purple color with no inclusions. Even a small inclusion will reduce the price of the gem.
Due to its abundant availability there is not much of a difference in medium quality gem and commercial quality. But excellent beautiful natural untreated amethyst gemstone can command good price. A small 3 ct stone can cost up to USD 5 per carat whereas a high quality big size amethyst gem stone could cost up to 50 USD per carat.
Since amethyst gemstones are available in a variety of shapes and sizes from small to medium to large, they lend themselves to many different jewelry designs. Amethyst crystals can be fashioned into different shapes and are often fashioned into amethyst beads, and amethyst loose stones of different sizes.
Popular amethyst gemstone jewelry includes amethyst earrings, amethyst hoop earrings, and amethyst stud earrings. Because of their color and deep shape, amethyst gemstones of the purple variety are made into amethyst engagement rings and amethyst wedding rings.
Markets and Producers
Almost all the African countries are famous for producing best quality amethyst gemstones. However, the top quality amethyst mines are located in Zambia. Brazil and Argentina in South America are the other places which have several amethyst mines, but the gem color is lighter.
The other minor places where amethyst crystals are mined include India, Canada, Madagascar, Mexico, Myanmar, Namibia, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.
Treatments done on Amethyst Gemstone
The main treatments done are of heat and irradiation for color enhancement. Many times the pale yellow color citrine (other variety of quartz family) is heat treated to give it the beautiful purple color of an amethyst crystal.
Simulants of Amethyst
The only close simulant to the marvelous color of this gem is glass, plastic and synthetic amethyst. Synthetic corundum is made in a color to imitate amethyst, and a soude-type composite stone is made which can be very deceptive, for the top, if not the base as well, is made of quartz and will thus give a refractometer reading for amethyst.
Many times pale colored amethysts are often mounted in closed setting jewelry like rings, earrings with paint or foil below in order to enhance the color.
Synthetic amethyst crytals manufactured by the soviets are flooding the market recently. The prices however are close to the natural amethyst. It might be impossible to distinguish between these synthetics and natural gems using conventional gem testing equipments.
Green color amethyst crystals have been found in the Zimbabwe and Arizona and are said to get the color due to the heat of the sun. These are mainly purple color gems that change color due to the excessive heat and the gem is found in a combination of green and purple color.
Amethyst birthstone is for people born in the month of February. Hence it is also called as february birthstone.
Amethyst geodes are commonly found and usually bought as a show piece or collectors gemstone.
2) Gemmology by Peter G.Read.
3) Handbook of Gem Identification - Richard T.Liddicoat, jr.
4) Gems and Crystals - From the American Museum of Natural History - Anna S.Sofianides and George E.Harlow.
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