February is the shortest month of the year, and in many places, it’s one of the coldest but its birthstone is definitely one of the loveliest. February’s birthstone is the amethyst, a type of silicon dioxide, commonly known as quartz (which is one of the most abundant materials found in the earth’s crust). Amethysts are often found inside geodes or volcanic rocks. They are always purple, and there’s some debate about what causes this color, whether it’s from the presence of iron oxide, manganese, or hydrocarbons in the stone. The purple of amethysts can range from lighter, pinkish shades to very dark, nearly black shades. Sometimes a single amethyst will contain layers of various different hues, so the cut of the gemstone is very important in determining the overall color of the finished piece.
Amethysts have been popular for at least 25,000 years and have been found as decorations on prehistoric human artifacts discovered in France. The word “amethyst” comes from the Greek amethystos, which means “not drunk.” Amethysts were believed to protect the wearer from intoxication and the charms of the Greek god Dionysus (Bacchus in Roman mythology); in fact, the wine was often drunk out of cups carved of amethyst so the one imbibing would not become drunk. Amethysts have been believed to promote clear-headedness, intelligence, quick wits, peace, courage, and strength, and they have long been associated with the deity of Christ and the authority of royalty. It is said that Cleopatra wore an amethyst ring engraved with the image of the Persian god Mithras and that Saint Valentine wore an amethyst ring engraved with the image of Cupid. For several centuries, amethysts were considered extremely precious, sometimes regarded with the same value as diamonds, until abundant supplies of the stones were found around the world. Today amethysts are mostly found in Brazil, Uruguay, Zambia, Canada, Arizona, and North Carolina.
Like other forms of quartz, amethyst measures a 7 on the Mohs scale, meaning it’s rather hard and very durable, so it’s a great choice for jewelry, especially custom-design jewelry or jewelry that will be worn frequently. When they are exposed to extreme heat, amethysts can change to brownish-yellow, red, or even green. Sometimes heat can even transform an amethyst into citrine, a mineral that is not found very often in nature. Even without extreme heat, an amethyst’s purple color may fade over time; however, amethysts make for very flexible fashion choices because they complement both warm and cool colors. They look beautiful no matter what metal they are set in, and they wear well with virtually any other color. Because these stones are relatively abundant, the price difference between a small amethyst and a large one is usually not that great, making them an excellent, cost-effective investment for a statement piece.
If you’re interested in a fine selection of amethyst jewelry or the designing your own custom piece featuring an amethyst, please call your Austin jewelry store and custom jewelry designer, Copeland Jewelers, or come in today!