past & present

D*S Gem Handbook: Amethyst

by Maxwell Tielman

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.

Text by Amy Azzarito. Design by Maxwell Tielman.

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  • Interesting to know that at one point these gems were so hard to find! It seems obvious, they didn’t have worldwide shipping the same way we do now. But it’s important to remember how lucky we are for those of us interested in gems for jewellery, healing, or simply decoration. Our options are seemingly limitless!

  • I am a crystal/gemstone junkie – yes, I am one of those girls who has a huge selection of them on her altar at home. I actually have a sizable piece of amethyst, and it’s my favorite piece! Love this article.

  • Although the poster doesn’t say it, can also be found in the Appalachians, including the Blue Ridge of North Carolina.

  • Recently, I was watching Antiques Roadshow (yup) and a guest was having a collection of amethyst jewelry appraised. I had only seen lavender-toned amethyst, but some of her pieces were what the appraiser termed “Siberian Amethyst”. I have never been a big gemstone person, but the color and depth of the purple/blue of those stones was mesmerizing and for me, unforgettable. There’s a whole side to this stone that I had no idea about, and I learned even more about it here. Thank you! : )

  • Wow !! You have explained it well. I have also shared the same article about amethyst gemstone benefits and properties. Have a visit sometime and explore more knowledge. Let me give you the reference – Amethyst Gemstone Benefits