The February born shall find
Sincerity and peace of mind,
Freedom from passion and from care,
If they, the amethyst will wear.
(Unknown poet, 1870)
In spite of its seductive extravagance in violet, the February birthstone amethyst has, since its discovery, been said to protect against seduction. Its name derives from the Greek word ‘amethystos’ meaning ‘not intoxicated’ and as the elite gemstone of the quartz family, it has for centuries, been coveted by ecclesiastical and secular dignitaries.
On high the Amethyst is set
In color like the violet
With flames as if of gold it glows
And far its purple radiance throws
The humble heart it signifies
Of Him who in the Savior dies
(Marlbodus, 11th century)
Described by Moses as a ‘symbol of the Spirit of God’, amethyst was the favorite gemstone of the Russian empress Catherine the Great, who engaged thousands of miners to search for it in the Ural Mountains. Other cultures attributed miraculous powers to amethyst, such as protection of crops against tempests and locusts, bringing good fortune at times of war, driving out evil spirits and enhancing the intellect.
The Roman natural philosopher Pliny made frequent references to amethyst as a unique gemstone and its significance in the ancient Roman civilization. If worn around the neck on a cord made of dog’s hair, it would protect against snakebites and even eagles placed the gemstone in their nests in order to safeguard their young from danger. Later in history, the German gemstone therapist Hildegard von Bingen attributed a sobering and cleansing effect to amethyst, emphasizing its impact on skin purification.
In addition to its firm place in ancient medicine, amethyst has, to the present day, been esteemed as a ‘gemstone of friendship’, creating a chaste frame of mind for its wearer, symbolizing trust and piety, by virtue of which for centuries amethyst occupied a prominent position amongst the Catholic clergy. It was the ornamental gemstone of bishops and cardinals, to be seen in prelates’ crosses and the Papal Ring in the 15th century. The Jewelry Museum of Pforzheim in Germany has a valuable collection of antique ornaments adorned with amethysts and the Cologne Cathedral exhibits magnificent stones to fascinate viewers with their translucent and breath-taking abundance of violet.
It has taken the scientists considerable time to ascertain the constituents of amethyst’s unique color, attributed now to iron ingredients combined with natural radioactive radiation. Although bearing similarities with other members of the quartz family, such as hardness and moderate refraction, amethyst has a different and unconventional crystal structure. It has been known for a long time that amethyst changes its color when exposed to the heating process. At temperatures of 250 degrees, the gemstone is transformed to a shining brownish red, and when exposed to higher temperatures of 400 degrees and above, this violet gemstone can turn yellow and even colorless.
Bi-colored amethyst crystals were recently discovered in Bolivia, formed in nuggets and referred to as ‘ametryne’, and the Hern Brothers in Idar-Oberstein pointed out a highlight for esoterics by supplying photographs which shows energy fields in amethyst crystals made visible in polarized light.
The gift of Amethyst is symbolic of protection and the power to overcome difficulty. It is said to strengthen the bond in a love relationship, therefore an ideal anniversary or engagement gem. Whether or not amethyst holds such power, it’s stunning beauty will keep Brazil, Uruguay and neighboring Madagascar firmly on the map.