Amethyst is a variety of quartz that is light pink to dark purple, and may exhibit reds and blues, too. Its immense popularity is due to the beautiful color and its accessibility.
This stone was once so rare that it was classified as one of the precious gems, like diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds. Kings and queens prized it for their official jewelry, since purple was a royal color. Also, it was a favorite stone among high-ranking officials in early church and was nicknamed “the stone of bishops.”
In the 19th century large deposits were discovered in Brazil, and amethyst lost most of its value. Today the stone comes mostly from Zambia, Africa, but is found in many other places around the world, including the United States.
Its value is mostly dependent on size, quality, and color. And while the stone is very common now, there is one type of amethyst which stands out from the rest: “Deep Russian.” True Deep Russian, or “Siberian Amethyst,” as it is also known, is very rare, and only the demand of collectors can determine its monetary value, which can average about $50,000 for a carat. It is distinguished by its very deep color with reddish and bluish tints. The stone originates from deposits that have since been exhausted, and that is one of the main reasons it commands such a high price.
Some sellers present dark amethyst from other locations as Siberian to get a better price. Amethyst can be irradiated to deepen the color. Since clear quartz is chemically and physically very similar to amethyst, it can be irradiated to the point that only advanced gemological testing can tell the difference, and is usually cost prohibitive. Green quartz is sometimes called green amethyst. But the proper terminology for this stone is prasiolite, also called vermarine or lime citrine.
The name comes from the ancient Greek word “amethustos,” meaning “not drunk,” referring to the belief that the stone protected its owner from drunkenness. The Greeks even made drinking vessels out of the stone. The use of the stone can be traced back to the Minoan period, about 2500 B.C., so it's no surprise that many beliefs and tales surround this beautiful stone.
For example, it was believed to serve as a precaution against poison, controlling evil thoughts, helping hunters in capturing of animals, making the wearer savvy in business matters, protecting against theives, healing pain, headaches, insomnia, and mental disorders, making the wearer gentle and amiable, having sweet dreams, and giving courage and spiritual uplifting.
The ancient Egyptians used amethyst as a gemstone, mostly for intaglio engraving. Medeival European soldiers wore amethyst amulets as protection in battle in belief that they heal people and keep them cool-headed. Even Da Vinci wrote that amethyst was able to dissolve evil thoughts and quicken intelligence.
With or without the superstitions, the stone still delights wearers and admirers alike to this day, and will continue to be one of the most popular stones in the world.