Amethyst
 
February Birthstone.   6th Anniversary Gemstone; and 33rd Anniversary Modern Gift.   A violet transparent variety of Quartz.
 
The Amethyst has been a jewel coveted by princes both ecclesiastical and secular.   Moses described it as a symbol of the Spirit of God in the official robes of the High Priest of the Jews, and the Russian Empress Catherine the Great sent thousands of miners into the Urals to look for it.   Mythology used  the amethyst as protection against drunkenness -the Greek word 'amethystos' translates to 'not intoxicated'.
 
Other cultures attribute miraculous power to the Amethyst.   It was said to protect crops against tempests and locusts; bring good fortune in war and hunting; drive out evil spirits; and inspire the intellect.   Apart from these powers, Amethyst has been said to quell excessive stomach acid and combat insect bites, beautify the skin.   But the Amethyst has not only had a firm niche in medicine, it has also been esteemed as a stone of friendship.   It was thought to put the wearer in a chaste frame of mind and symbolize trust and piety.   Due to these beliefs, the Amethyst came to occupy a very prominent position in the ornaments of the Catholic clergy over the centuries.   It was the stone of Bishops and Cardinals.
 
Amethysts have posed one or two riddles for scientists.   The Amethyst has a hardness of 7 (its moderate refraction and weight in common with the other Quartz), but the crystal structure is unconventional.   The construction is strata (layers), resulting in areas and lamellae (thin plates or layers) of varying color intensity.   Larger cut Amethysts tend to be lighter in color, in spite of the abundance of crystals in all parts of the world because of the color variations in the growth patterns.
 
The Amethyst color can be changed with heat treatments.   At temperatures as low as 250 degrees smoky crystals can be transformed to a shining yellow or brownish-red, while clear crystals (i.e. those with a high degree of transparency) will become yellow or colorless at 400 degrees.   Bi-colored crystals have been found in Bolivia caused by a temperature gradient across the crystal during its formation.   This variety is known as Ametrine.   In its formation, different oxidation states of iron within the crystal (due to the temperature differences) introduce violet  areas to the yellow citrine.   Some Amethysts pale almost to colorlessness in daylight.   Amethyst jewelry should not be worn in the sun or black light for long periods of time.   Temperature and Humidity changes can also change the crystal's color.
 
The largest known deposits are in various states in southern Brazil, Uruguay, and Madagascar.   However, this gemstone is spread all over the world.   Aztec graves held Amethyst crystals, the origin of which is unknown.   In Amethyst Harbor, Canada Amethyst crystal is found in ample quantities, though rarely in gemstone quality.   Additional sources have been found South America, Germany, Russia, Tibet, and Sri Lanka.   The crystals from Brazil tend to be light in color; in Madagascar, red or violet; and in Uruguay, some of the more beautiful deep colors but with more inclusions.
 
The Amethyst is most likely to be found in hollow "bubbles" in rocks which have been caused by either gas or water.   One of the largest cavities was discovered in 1900 A.D. in Rio Grande do Sul.   The almond (rock) measured 10 x 5 x 3 metres (33' x 16' x 10') and weighed an estimated 8 tons.   Some of the Amethysts found with a dark purple color were estimated to be as large as 700ctw (the size of a man's hand).   One crystal from Brazil weighing 200 kilograms can be found in the Washington Museum.   In 1993 A.D., a 3 metre geode was found in Maine, USA, which contained well over 1000 kilograms of gem quality Amethyst, some in crystals 19 cm long.  Large deposits of gem quality crystals were discovered in South America in the 1800's A.D. bringing down the prices.   Queen Charlotte of England owned an Amethyst bracelet worth an estimated 2,000 pounds sterling (at that time).
 
Napoleon captured a bust of Trajan in Berlin which was carved out of Amethyst.   In earlier times, people liked to drink wine from Amethyst cups earning it the nick name of Bacchas stone in reference to Greek mythology.
 
 
 
 
 
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