What is an Amethyst?

Mary McMahon

Amethyst is a variety of quartz that is distinguished by its purple color. Chemically, the stone is described as SiO2, or silicon dioxide, along with other quartzes. The transparent crystalline stone is often used in jewelry such as rings and necklaces, and some people believe that the color has soothing and healing properties. The ornamental stone is also the birthstone for the month of February and has been for centuries. It is also associated with several astrological signs, and often appears in texts on mysticism.

Promise rings often feature gems such as amethyst.
Promise rings often feature gems such as amethyst.

This stone has been treasured by humans for centuries. The purple color is quite unusual in nature, and high quality amethyst has a deep, even color saturation that is quite stunning. The crystals often grow quite large, allowing the stone to be used in large, elaborate settings of gold, silver, and other metals. The name comes from the ancient Greeks, who believed that amethyst could prevent drunkenness; the name means “not intoxicated.”

Amethyst is a variety of quartz that is distinguished by its purple color.
Amethyst is a variety of quartz that is distinguished by its purple color.

The color of amethyst can come from a variety of sources. Manganese and iron are two likely culprits, with some gems being almost red in color due to a higher iron concentration. When it is heated, the color will start to change, turning yellow or green before fading away entirely. Some jewelers deliberately heat it to spread the color evenly through lower grade stones, or to change the color. In many cases, amethyst will be found with deposits of other rock, and may form bands of color including purple, white, and green. Some jewelry uses banded amethyst for a striking visual, while other jewelers combine multiple types of quartz in one piece for a range of colors.

Amethyst is a fairly hard gemstone, but it is delicate. It has been known to fracture along hairline cracks, and will also lose its color if exposed to ultraviolet radiation on a regular basis. For this reason, jewelry made with it should be worn with caution so that it is not damaged. The stone should also not be subjected to extreme temperature changes.

Because amethyst is so abundant in nature, the stone is not classified as precious, although it often appears in settings with precious stones. The unique color has caused the stone to be prized enough that it appears in religious rings of office, crowns, and other ornamental jewelry all over the world. Traditionally, it has been associated with wisdom and purity, and can be worn by both women and men.

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Discussion Comments


Is there a way to stop a crack that's started to form in an amethyst? I have a piece that's pretty big and I've had it for years, but saw that there's a crack in the middle of it. It seems like it's growing longer by the week, which is aggravating considering it was near-perfect.


I've loved amethysts for years - got my first one when I was 11. There's a small mine near where I live where we go panning for them. We don't usually come away with much, but it's fun!

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