If you’re a February birthday girl, or are shopping for one, you should know that this month’s birthstone is rich in history and meaning. (Also know that amethysts make excellent gifts for women born in any month of the year.) For all the details on these gorgeous and symbolic gemstones, read on.
Amethyst History and Meaning
Gorgeous purple amethysts have been prized since at least as far back as the ancient Greeks. Because of their grape-like color, the Greeks associated these gems with the wine god, Bacchus. They believed that wearing an amethyst could protect you from drunkenness—in fact the word amethystos meant “not drunk” in ancient Greek. According to gemstone lore, amethyst keeps its wearer clear-headed and clever. And artist Leonardo da Vinci wrote that amethyst enhances intelligence and protects against evil thoughts.
Purple has long been considered a regal color, and amethysts frequently appear in royal and religious jewelry. Buddhists have believed that amethyst enhances meditation, and the gem is often used for Tibetan prayer beads. Various cultures have associated amethyst with peace, balance and courage, and ascribed to it the ability to cure insomnia and relieve pain.
Until the 19th century amethysts were as valuable and expensive as emeralds, sapphires and rubies, but then a large deposit of amethysts was discovered in Brazil. Although this lowered the gems’ financial value, the trove of Brazilian gems allowed large amethysts to be used more frequently in jewelry. They are often found in eye-catching cocktail rings from the Art Deco and Retro eras.
Colors and Characteristics
Amethyst comes in colors ranging from deep purple to the palest shades of pastel lavender and even pink. The most valuable hue is a strong reddish purple shade, but we love every shade of amethyst. Lavender hues look particularly stunning when complemented by diamond accents. Most amethyst has excellent clarity, with no inclusions visible to the naked eye, and it is available in a variety of cuts and carat weights.
A type of quartz, amethyst crystals can be huge, weighing more than 100 pounds, and sometimes form in hollow geodes big enough to stand in.
Buying and Caring for Amethysts
If you’re shopping for a February birthday girl, amethyst jewelry is a can’t-miss choice. Consider elegant amethyst stud earrings or an amethyst pendant. Big, beautiful amethysts frequently appear in antique cocktail rings—a gift any woman would love.
With a score of 7 on the Mohs hardness scale (10 being most durable) Amethyst is strong enough for rings and daily wear, but some care should be taken to protect it from scratching by rough materials. After many years it may require repolishing. In rare cases sudden temperature changes can cause amethyst to fracture, and amethyst’s color might fade with long exposure to strong light. These gems can also be damaged by some acids and alkaline solutions (so don’t wear an amethyst ring while using household cleaners). Clean your amethyst jewelry with mild soap and warm water. Ultrasonic cleaners are safe unless an amethyst has had fractures filled (which is rare), but steam cleaning is not recommended.