Amethyst in History
by Mathew Abraham
Since the color of amethyst is associated with royalty, it has been the natural choice for most monarchs from ancient times. Egyptian rulers had a marked preference for the stone. Some exquisite amethyst stones adorn the British Crown Jewels. Catherine the Great was also known to have a liking for this precious stone. Besides, rulers were expected to be sober in order to make proper decisions on important matters, and amethyst was believed to have the ability to protect the wearer from any kind of intoxicating influence.
Available information suggests that this purple category of quartz was popular in several ancient civilizations. The stone was popular with hunters, and was credited with the power of giving protection during battle and against poisons. It was also believed to dispel sluggishness and increase mental agility. There is even a Biblical reference to it being one of the twelve stones to adorn the breastplate of the high priests. It was commonly used as an adornment, especially among the aristocratic classes. Though Pliny has opined that the name of the stone is derived from its color, which resembles wine, popular folklore connects the name to Greek origins. The theory suggests that the term ‘amethyst’ is derived from the Greek roots ‘a’ – meaning ‘not’ – and ‘methuskein’ – which means ‘intoxication’ – because it was believed that alcoholic drinks consumed from cups made of amethyst would not intoxicate the drinker. It was also believed to protect the wearer from amorous intoxications.
And there is an interesting Greek legend concerning the origin of the stone itself. Dionysus, the Greek God of intoxication, had been offended by a mortal. In a fit of rage he decided to take revenge on the next mortal to cross his path, and created a vicious tiger to execute his deadly design. The next innocent who came that way turned out to be the beautiful young maiden, Amethyst, a devotee of the Goddess Diana. In order to save Amethyst from the tiger, Diana transformed her into the purest form of crystalline quartz. When the eyes of Dionysus beheld the incredibly beautiful statue, they shed tears of deep purple wine that stained the quartz and gave it its attractive color.There are other theories that connect the name to oriental sources, claiming that the present term is a corruption of the original name. During the middle ages, the stone became popular among the Catholic clergy, as it was believed that the anti-intoxicating properties of the gem would help them maintain their vows of celibacy. Amethyst came to symbolize piety and Bishops frequently used it for their rings. Other religions, Like Buddhism, also attached importance to the stone.Astrological and Mystical History
Traditionally amethyst is the astrological stone of the star sign Pisces. Today it is also accepted as the stone for the month of February, and some people even connect it with the star signs Aries, Aquarius, Virgo, Capricorn and Sagittarius. The deep violet and purple colored varieties are the most popular as astrological and birth stones. Many people still attach a lot of importance to the traditional positive values attributed to the gem. It is associated with Saint Valentine as a symbol of pure love, chastity, temperance and faithfulness. Hunters and soldiers wore it to gain presence of mind and clear thinking in stressful situations. Many believe that wearing the gem can gain favors from royalty and other wealthy and powerful leaders of society. Amethyst is also accepted as a symbol of spirituality and detachment from worldliness, allowing the wearer to make wise decisions in worldly affairs (including business matters) even while keeping the mind occupied in philosophical realms.
Other qualities attributed to amethyst include increase in faith and wisdom, diligence in prayer and religious practices, assistance in prophecy, protection from poisonous substances and sorcery, discernment and suppression of evil thoughts and evil forces, guidance for travelers, indications of deterioration in health, etc… It is credited with enabling the wearer to see and interpret prophetic dreams and visions concerning future events. It is also believed that wearing the gem can bring love and good fortune.
In modern times amethyst has become very popular as it is readily available all over the world. Mines are located in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Russia and Australia. Although there are marked differences in the quality of the stone depending on the place of its origin, all varieties are very much in demand. The South American amethyst is generally larger than the African variety, but the latter tend to have a deeper color. The Australian stone is very small in size but has a very dark color. Stones mined in Russia are clear and have a deep color.
The gem comes in an attractive and wide array of colors that range from a deep purple to a pale lilac shade. The prime choice for ornaments is the translucent rich purple variety. These stones have a rose colored sparkle and are the most expensive. The paler pastel shades, referred to as “Rose de France”, are more suited for jewelry crafted in Victorian designs. These days amethyst is available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Though generally the stones are cut to standard dimensions, some of the more imaginative designs are very much in demand – especially those linked to some legendry folklore or mystical powers. But whatever the size, whatever the shape, and whatever the color, the demand for the stone is increasing everywhere.