Over the past few years, the amethyst trend has hit interiors in a big way and I have to admit, I’m a pretty huge fan. I have a tiny piece of amethyst on my coffee table and would love to eventually upgrade it to something a little more substantial. And it looks like I’m in good company. Because while my love of amethyst is inspired by current trends, this purple gemstone has been in demand for a long time. From Cleopatra and Catherine the Great to the Crown Jewels of England, amethysts have been a sought-after favorite for thousands of years.
Amethysts actually get their name from the Greek word amethystos, meaning “not drunk”. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans wore amethyst and made drinking vessels out of the stone in the belief that it would protect the owner from drunkenness. The origin of this belief comes from a Greek myth in which Bacchus, in a foul temper, took his frustrations out on an innocent girl, Amethyst. When he released his tigers to kill the girl, she prayed to the goddess Diana, who transformed the girl into a clear quartz to prevent her from being eaten alive. There are two versions of the story that explain her purple hue – in one Bacchus, feeling guilty, pours wine over the girl. In the second version, his tears turn her purple. The stone was thought to be so important to controlling passions, it was believed that wives should wear amethyst to keep them faithful.
Fine amethyst was much rarer in the past than it is today, and the stone is included in royal collections all over the world. (Empress Catherine the Great sent thousands of miners into the Urals to look for her favorite stone). However, when the South American amethyst deposits were discovered at the end of the 19th century, the price of these gemstones fell considerably. Queen Charlotte of England had an amethyst bracelet at the beginning of the 18th century that was valued at 2,000 British Pounds and 200 years later, it was worth only 100. However, these days, the price of amethyst is closely related to the quality of the stone, not the quantity.