Amethyst, the birthstone for the month of February and for the sixth anniversary of marriage, is one of the most popular gemstones. Perhaps it is the stone's purple color, considered throughout history as "royal," which makes it so attractive. Or, perhaps it owes its popularity, in part, to the fact that In Tibet, amethyst is considered to be sacred to Buddha and is used there extensively in rosaries.
As is the case with many gemstones, there are legends attached to the origin of the amethyst. One such legend relates that one day, Dionysius, the Greek god of intoxication, became angry as a result of an insult from a "mere mortal." The god meted out his revenge on every mortal with whom he came in contact thereafter. Legend tells us that Dionysius created ferocious tigers whose duty it was to punish those mortals. Amethyst, a lovely young woman was going to pay homage to the goddess Diana. She had placed herself in harms way and Diana, who knew that, quickly turned Amethyst into a statue made of pure crystalline quartz, so she would be protected from Dionysius's tigers. When Dionysius saw the statue of the beautiful maiden, he cried tears of wine. Legend has it that his tears stained the quartz stone the color purple and that is how it became the popular gemstone it is today. An interesting footnote is that the Greek work "amethystos" means "not drunken." The stone, many believed, was a strong antidote against drunkenness, and, because of that, many wine goblets were carved from it. To this day, the gemstone symbolizes sobriety.
Amethyst has always been very popular to royalty, many of whom used the stone in the royal jewels. They are prominently featured in the British Crown Jewels, Catherine the Great's jewelry, and in much of Egyptian royalty's collections.
The Church believed that the transparent purple quartz stone served to encourage celibacy and, because of that, it was used extensively in the ornamentation of churches in the Middle Ages. To this day, many Bishops wear amethyst rings.
Amethyst comes in colors from pale lilac to deep purple. The paler colors are often referred to as "Rose de France" and were very popular in Victorian jewelry. The darker versions are the most valuable, especially when the rich purple exhibits rose "flashes." The stone comes from mines in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia and Argentina and some African countries. Larger stones come primarily from South American, but African amethyst has garnered the reputation for being of a richer, more saturated color. Very dark amethyst, mostly in small sizes, also comes from mines in Australia. The stones are available in a wide range of calibrated sizes and shapes.