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February Birthstone

She was a follower of Artemis, Amethyst, a lovely nymph who worshipped at the Temple of the Goddess of the Hunt and was a favorite of the goddess herself. He was, the old tale goes, Dionysus, the god of wine, and on that morning his mood was sour and black. He’d vowed to kill the very first mortal he happened upon, setting his tigers at them. It was the misfortune of the beautiful Amethyst to be that first mortal. She called upon her goddess to save her, and Artemis, doing the first thing she could think of, turned the girl into a pillar of white crystal to save her from the sharp claws of Dionysus’ tigers. She then turned her fury on her half-brother, and in the face of Artemis’ wrath, his drunkenness dissipated and he was horrified at what he’d done. Some writers say it was in apology, others that he hoped to heal or warm the cold stone back to flesh, but for whatever reason, Dionysus spilled his cup of wine over the statue. The deep purple of the grape soaked into the stone, staining it forever with the characteristic coloring of the amethyst.

Thus the ancient Greeks explained how amethyst was first created. Quartz crystal comes in many colors – yellow, rose, pale blue – but it’s only the purple variety that has its own name and is considered a precious gem rather than a crystal. Amethyst is found in all shadings of purple, from pale lavender to the deepest violet. Often, like the statue of the young maid saved by Artemis, it shades from dark at the tip to colorless at its base. Generally, the deeper and more pure the coloring, the more valuable is the stone.

Considering the myth of Amethyst’s creation, it should come as no surprise that the ancient Greeks and Romans believed that amethyst could combat drunkenness, and wine goblets were often carved of amethyst. In fact, the name amethyst translates as ‘not drunken’ from the Greek. But the purple stone is prized for many other reasons as well.

February’s birthstone, amethyst, is said to impart clarity of thought to those who wear it. According to Leonardo Da Vinci, amethyst has the power to dispel evil thoughts, making it a stone that encourages piety and celibacy. Its purple color makes it also a stone of royalty. Thus the traditional bishop’s ring – the ring of the Princes of the Church – holds combines royalty with piety in the amethyst. In other religious traditions, amethyst was believed to be sacred to Buddha, and Tibetan prayer beads are often made of amethyst for that reason. The stone is said to ward against nightmares and protect from sorcery, and many medieval texts advise sleeping with an amethyst beneath the pillow to protect yourself from the evils of nightmares and sorcery during the night.

Royalty has always favored amethysts as well. The Egyptians buried amethysts with their Pharaohs, and it’s said that Cleopatra wore a signet ring of amethyst engraved with the symbol of Mithras. Amethysts are featured significantly in the British crown jewels, and Saint Valentine, a bishop, wore an amethyst signet ring which was, say the stories, engraved with the figure of Cupid, his assistant.

Amethyst was one of the twelve stones that adorned the breastplate fashioned by Moses in the Bible, representative of the tribe of Dan, a son of Joseph. It also is associated with the month of February, the astrological signs Aquarius, Pisces and Sagittarius, and the day Wednesday. Its varied associations and traditions mean that nearly anyone can claim the amethyst as their personal stone – and why not? The transparent purple with a spark of rose fire make the amethyst one of the most beautiful and prized of stones, and its abundance in the Earth’s crust make it easy and affordable to own.

In composition, amethyst is quartz, silica dioxide. The purple coloring comes from manganese and iron in the crystals. It is often found in encrustations on other stones, or inside geodes. Amethyst can vary in transparency from clear to translucent, and generally the more transparent the stone, the more it is valued. It has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale, making it a relatively hard gemstone.

Of all the birthstones, amethyst is the one most revered for spiritual healing and mental cleansing. It has been regarded for centuries as a symbol of peace and unity that encourages reflection and sober thought. Amethyst crystals, orbs and rods each carry specific properties of healing, the most potent of which is its ability to enhance and transform the healing energies of other crystals.

Whatever else you may believe about amethyst, there is no doubt that the purple stone is one of the most beautiful gemstones in existence. If the amethyst is your birthstone, you are indeed lucky and blessed.

Amethysts are a form of quartz crystal that gain their coloring from deposits of iron. Its purple hue has long made it a favorite of royalty the world over. Ranging in color from pale lilac to deep purple, amethyst is the birthstone for February as well as being one of the most common gems found in the Earth’s crust. Amethysts are found on every continent in varying amounts, and have been used as precious gems for thousands of years. Their rich coloration, durability and availability have made them popular favorites with people and cultures all over the world.

Amethyst Buying Guide

Amethyst varies in color from deep violet to pure, clear lavender. The most valuable amethysts are medium to dark tones, transparent and pure violet with no shading toward red or blue. Amethysts from Africa tend to be darker and smaller than South American amethysts, and the richer color intensity tends to make them more valuable. Since amethyst is so plentiful, you can expect to find affordable stones of excellent quality that are ‘eye clean’ – with no flaws visible to the naked eye.

Color is the major deciding factor in the value of amethyst with the deeper shades claiming the most value. Pale amethyst, often called Rose de France, are less expensive but make beautiful jewelry in the right settings and cuts. Because amethyst is so plentiful, it’s also a popular stone for jewelers and gem cutters to experiment with. This means that you’ll find more fanciful shapes and cuts of amethyst than you will of more precious and rare stones where the cutters are more concerned with conserving as much of the stone’s original weight as possible.

Amethyst Care

Amethyst is rates a 7 on the Mohs hardness scale, making it one of the harder gems. It’s also quite durable, and doesn’t chip or split easily.

Everyday caution

Remove gemstone jewelry when you’re going to be doing work or exercise, or when you’re doing dishes and housework. Avoid exposing your amethyst to household cleaners, particularly bleach which can seriously damage the stone.

Storing amethyst jewelry

Amethyst is susceptible to heat and sunlight, both of which will lighten the color and may even make it a muddy brown. Because of this, you should avoid leaving amethyst in direct sunlight for any length of time, and any jewelry repairs that use heat should be done with the stone removed from the setting. A jewelry box is a good investment – but it’s important to remember that gemstones CAN damage each other and your other jewelry. Keep amethyst jewelry wrapped in its own cloth to avoid damage.

Cleaning amethyst jewelry

You can clean your amethyst jewelry with a soft bristle brush and warm water, but avoid harsh chemicals which may damage the stone. Ultrasonic cleaners should not be used to clean amethyst jewelry as they may damage the gem.