Renowned for its splendorous hue, an amethyst is the most popular variety of quartz. This stunning semi-precious stone is formed in geodes called "hollow rocks". Found all across the globe, they develop underground in long prismatic clusters above the geode base. Typically, this gemstone occurs as a six-sided crystal and a crystalline crust that coats other rocks. Most of the amethyst jewelry available today is created from the pyramid-shaped crystal formations.
The presence of iron and aluminum impurities are responsible for this gem's prized hue that ranges from a pale lilac to a deep, intense purple. An amethyst, like other varieties of macrocrystalline quartz, has a translucent luster and the best quality gemstone features good saturation with minimal color zoning.
Amethyst has been a highly esteemed gem for centuries and was once equivalent to rubies and sapphires. The discovery of huge deposits of amethyst stones in South America and other countries increased its availability and simultaneously reduced its rarity and price. In spite of this, it still remains one of the most popular choices among the many semi-precious gemstones available today.
While South America is still the most prominent source for large sized amethyst stones, they are also found in Brazil, United States, Canada, Mexico, Africa, Australia and India. While the mines in Africa produce some of the most deep-purple colored and smaller sized amethyst stones, Australia is renowned for the darkest varieties. The color of the gem may vary depending on the region it belongs to, but the chemical properties remain the same.
This gem gets its name from the Greek term "amethystos", which refers to "not being inebriated". It was believed that an amethyst possessed the powers to negate the effects of alcohol consumption and also promote sobriety.
Coveted for its royal hue and mystical powers, an amethyst was considered an important symbol of power. At one point it was valued more than diamonds, because purple dye was extremely rare and it was affordable only to people belonging to the affluent class. The amethyst soon became a part of the jewelry collection of the royals; from ancient Egyptians to the British monarchs. It was also highly revered by the Christian church and was called "the stone of bishops". In the Bible, the amethyst is mentioned as the 12th foundation of the Holy City.
Throughout history, this gemstone has been cherished for its captivating beauty. Even today, it is considered to be a symbol of contentment and spirituality. An amethyst is attributed with the power to calm the mind and prevent conflicting emotions. It is also regarded to be the birthstone for those born in February as well as the gem for the 6th and 17th wedding anniversaries.
Hardness & Strength
Amethyst is an attractive gemstone with a rating of 7 on the Mohs scale, which makes it relatively hard. Its durability causes it to be a popular choice for both simple and ornate jewelry, including rings. However, proper safety measures must be taken to avoid scratches or any other kind of damage.
Since the beginning, amethyst stones have been heat treated to mainly enhance their color and improve the clarity. Most of them available in the market today are synthetically enhanced to achieve darker shades, since those are more popular than a light-colored amethyst. Heating this gemstone in a controlled environment at a temperature ranging from 400 to 500 degrees Celsius can intensify its hue and transform it into a royal purple shade. This is a widely used treatment and its effects are permanent.
In rare cases, an amethyst may also undergo fracture-filling treatment, which is done to improve overall clarity.
Quality & Grading
Once exclusive only to the royals, the amethyst has now become a popular gemstone due to the ease of availability. Its value primarily depends on the color, along with a few other factors that are mentioned below.
The amethyst is known for its captivating purple brilliance. It is available in a variety of colors (ranging from pale lilac to deep reddish purple); however this gemstone in a dark color is considered more valuable.
Some of the finest amethyst stones display a deep reddish-purple or purple hue. No visible color zoning also greatly adds to its worth.
Most of the faceted amethyst gemstones available today are free from eye-visible inclusions, however there are exceptions. In the case of a high-quality amethyst with a rich color, minor inclusions are often overlooked. The expensive versions of this gem radiate exceptional clarity, while light or pastel colored amethyst stones with visible inclusions are relatively easy on the pocket.
An amethyst is often cut into a variety of shapes with pear, emerald-cut, square, trillion, cabochon, round, oval, cushion, and heart being the most common. This gemstone is also cut into an assortment of free-hand shapes that are achieved with the help of automated cutting or by hand. Amethyst stones in these designer cuts make for one-of-a-kind pieces that are very expensive.
The abundant availability of amethysts in large sizes ensures its value is not dependent on the carat weight. Rather, it is the color that majorly influences the stone's worth.
Even though there is currently no standardized grading system for an amethyst, it can be classified into the following categories of quality based on its various characteristics.
The top 1% of extremely rare amethysts belongs to this category. These gems display the eye-clean property, which means they do not have any inclusions visible to the naked eye. An heirloom-quality amethyst has a distinctive dark purple hue that makes it extremely sought-after.
This category comprises of the top 10% of amethyst stones. These beautiful gems are also eye-clean and showcase a medium dark purple color.
In terms of quality, this includes the top 33% of the available amethyst stones. They are medium purple in color and have slight inclusions.
Light purple in hue, this category comprises of the top 75% of amethyst stones that have slight to moderate inclusions.
The mesmerizing amethyst is a fairly hard stone and to a large extent is perfect for daily wear. However, there are a few things one needs to keep in mind to maintain its luster.
- Do not wear your amethyst jewelry while performing household chores or indulging in strenuous activities.
- Avoid contact with chemicals like household cleaners and hairspray.
- For cleaning, use a solution of mild soap and a soft brush or sponge. Wipe with a soft cloth and then air-dry.
- Avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight and high temperature as this can lead to discoloration or deterioration of this gemstone's color.
- Ultrasonic cleaners are usually safe for cleaning an amethyst, except in cases where the stone is dyed or treated by fracture-filling.
- Avoid extreme heat or steam cleaning as sudden temperature change may cause the amethyst to develop fractures.
- Store your amethyst jewelry in a fabric lined box or wrap it in a soft cloth separately from other gemstone jewelry to avoid friction.
A truly impeccable gemstone, the amethyst is desired for its stunning royal hues. Keep the above points in mind and you're sure to have a gem that looks brand new for years to come.