February's children are fortunate to be graced with a birthstone that has captivated mankind for millennia: the amethyst. This gemstone, with its regal purple hue, is as rich in beauty as it is in history and lore. It's a variety of quartz that has become synonymous with the color purple and is admired for its varying shades and excellent durability. Here’s a deep dive into the amethyst, February's birthstone, revealing its colors, types, hardness, history, and folklore.
A Royal Spectrum
Amethyst boasts a color spectrum from the palest lilac to deep, intense violets, and even rich, warm purples. The presence of iron within the quartz, affected by natural radiation, imparts the regal purple color that is so strongly associated with this stone. The most prized amethysts are those with the deepest saturation of color, commonly referred to as "deep Siberian," and exhibit a vibrant, reddish-purple hue.
Clarity and Brilliance
Amethysts typically present with excellent clarity, meaning they lack visible inclusions. This clarity, combined with the stone's vitreous luster, allows for a radiant brilliance that is particularly striking when the stones are cut and polished. It’s this clear, deep color and the stone's reflective qualities that often draw jewelers and collectors to the amethyst.
Hardness and Suitability
With a rating of 7 on the Mohs scale, amethyst is relatively hard and suitable for a variety of jewelry applications. It’s durable enough for daily wear, which is why it is a popular choice for items such as engagement rings, earrings, and pendants. However, it's worth noting that despite its hardness, amethyst can be prone to fading with prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.
Historical Resonance and Symbolism
Amethyst has been prized since ancient times, worn by pharaohs, clerics, and royalty as a symbol of power. It was as valuable as ruby and emerald until large deposits were found in Brazil, making it more accessible. The name "amethyst" comes from the Ancient Greek word 'amethystos', meaning "not intoxicated". The Greeks wore amethyst and carved drinking vessels from it in the belief that it would prevent intoxication.
In medieval times, amethyst was often associated with the church, worn by bishops who believed it aided in the transference of divine insights. It also represents the period of Aquarius in the zodiac, which aligns with the month of February, embodying qualities of honesty, integrity, and serenity.
Modern Mystique and Applications
Today, amethyst is not just limited to the traditional deep purple. There are green varieties known as "prasiolite" and "vermarine." However, true natural green amethysts are rare and most on the market are heat-treated purple amethysts.
In contemporary settings, amethyst remains a favorite not only for its beauty but also for its versatility and affordability. It is a popular choice for both day and evening wear, and its wide range of tones makes it a delightful gem to be set in both silver and gold. Designers often use amethyst to add a splash of color and elegance to their creations.
The amethyst, a gemstone as rich in historical significance as it is in color, continues to be a cherished choice for jewelry lovers around the world. Whether you're seeking a piece that's subtle and delicate or one that's bold and striking, the amethyst offers something for every taste. February's birthstone is a testament to the timeless appeal of this enchanting gemstone, making it a fitting tribute to those born in the month known for its association with romance and regality.