With its rich violet hues, lovely amethyst jewelry has been widely admired and coveted.
What is Amethyst?
There's no question that amethyst is a beautiful gem to wear and own, but what exactly is it? Amethyst is a transparent purple quartz. Stones containing amethyst are actually rather common, however it is the quality of the amethyst that makes it valuable. Stones containing lesser quality amethyst are often polished and used as decorative items or bookends, while high quality amethyst is used for jewelry.
The color of amethyst can vary greatly, from pale lilac to deep purple, sometimes in the same gem. The terms Uralian and Siberian amethyst do not refer to the place where the amethyst was mined, but rather a deep purple-red shade that is particularly desirable. An interesting characteristic of amethyst is that if high heat is applied to it, in the range of 400 to 500 degrees Celsius, it will turn yellow. Most yellow quartz is actually amethyst that has been subjected to heat.
Amethyst History and Beliefs
Amethyst has been worn for thousands of years and early people attributed several special qualities to it. The ancients believed that amethyst could protect them in battle, and they often wore amethyst amulets to war. They also believed that amethyst could make a person smarter, was an effective antidote to poisoning, and could keep the wearer from becoming drunk. In fact, the origin of the word is amethystos, which in Greek means "not drunk." Not only did ancient Greeks wear amethyst to prevent drunkenness, but they made drinking cups of amethyst for the same reason. The gem became popular with the church during the middle ages and jewelry intended for clergymen was often made using amethyst jewelry, particularly rings.
Sources of Amethyst
Amethyst is found all over the world, including the United States, Russia, India, Madagascar and South Africa. However, most of the amethyst we see today is mined in Brazil and Uruguay. Large deposits of amethyst were discovered in those countries during the 1800s, which led to an overall decline in the gemstone's value.
Styles of Amethyst Jewelry
Amethyst is most often cut into faceted stones, but it is also frequently cut into smooth, rounded cabochon gems. Because there can be so much variation of color in a single stone, amethyst is frequently cut in a round shape, which takes advantage of the coloring.
Synthetic Amethyst Jewelry
Those looking for a cheaper alternative to genuine amethyst might consider synthetic amethyst jewelry. Unlike other synthetic gemstones, which can be too bright or obviously false, synthetic amethyst so closely mimics the color of the genuine gemstone that even experts can have difficulty distinguishing the two. Sadly, this has led to synthetic amethyst being passed off as natural, so it is best to deal with a reputable jeweler when you're looking for the real thing.
Caring for Amethyst Jewelry
As mentioned earlier, heat affects the color of amethyst, so this beautiful gem should be protected from high heat and strong sunshine. Mild, warm, soapy water is an effective cleanser for this gem. Amethyst will usually be safe in ultrasonic cleaners, but it is wise to steer clear of steam cleaners when cleaning this gem.