Back when I was young my father and his friends would choose the month of February for an attempted hiatus from alcohol. I would like to recall that February’s birthstone, amethyst, had an influence in their decision, but I’m afraid to say their sole motivation was the brevity of February – even in a leap year – compared to other months.
Yet at the same time amethyst derives its name from the Greek word amethystos, meaning ‘not drunk’ and the ancients believed one could drink buckets full of wine and remain sober, as long as it was imbibed from an amethyst goblet, or the drinker had an amethyst stone or crystal in their pocket. Just as the red of January’s garnet was associated with blood, so the purple of February’s amethyst was associated with wine and its god, Bacchus.
Through the ages amethyst has since been viewed by many cultures as a stone of peace; of the mind that is. It is purported to bring the wearer soothing dreams in tune with the divine, extending to the waking mind to help thoughts flow freely and unhindered by stress. In some cultures it is believed to strengthen the immune system, and has even been used in time in the healing of wounds.
In ancient times amethyst was rare and expensive, in a class with rubies and sapphires. Along with the fact that purple cloth dyes were super expensive owing they were derived from an arduous process of secreting the colour from the glands of a multitude of sea snails, the colour purple was synonymous with royalty and nobility. Today amethyst is not nearly as scarce since massive deposits of the purple quartz were discovered in South America in the 1800s. It is found all over the world, from the Americas through India and Europe. Here in Africa it is found in South Africa, especially the northern Cape, Namibia, Tanzania, Morocco and Madagascar.
Amethyst is a quartz, and so it is a silicate with an hexagonal crystal structure (SiO2). Although found in sedimentary and metamorphic rock, it is most abundant in igneous rock, which is itself formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava. It is during the growth of the crystal that amethyst gets its purple colour as trace amounts of iron are included in the growing quartz crystal. But one can still find a clear quartz crystal containing iron trace. It is only when the iron in the crystal is irradiated by gamma rays emitted by radioactive substances in the host rock that the iron will take on the purple colour. These colours vary in intensity, forming zones along the crystal from clear to a deep red purple. It is the deep red purple that fetches the big prices.
Amethyst registers at a 7 on the Mohs scale, a hardness which makes it ideal for jewellery of all types. Along with its unique colour and easy availability it has endured the ages as a favourite stone amongst jewellery lovers. Amethyst is also found in huge geodes, some even as big as a bath tub, and along with other amethyst crystals are keenly sought by collectors. Below are some images of the amethyst we have in stock on our website. Please have a look and contact us if you are wanting to buy that special someone an amethyst for their February birthday, or just want something very pretty in purple.
Until then, stay safe,
Jay and JD