Purple Prose: A Few Facts About the February Birthstone, Amethyst

February has the fewest days of any month of the year but amethyst, the February birthstone, can be found in more items of fine jewelry than perhaps any other variety of quartz.  Though chiefly thought of as a purple or violet, the wide variety of colors in which amethyst is available makes it a favorite gem for jewelry makers. Here are some facts and lore about February’s birthstone.

Color Me Purple (And Green): Amethyst Colors

4 Carat Green Amethyst & Diamond Ring

The primary hues of amethyst range from a light pink violet to a deep, rich purple, with secondary hues of blue and red.  “Green amethyst” is a green form of quartz that is also called prasiolite, vermarine or lime citrine.  Scientists disagree as to what causes the purple in amethyst, which may be due to the presence of either manganese or sulfur.

As purple is considered to be both a royal and a spiritual color, it has been used as a gem in ecclesiastical rings throughout the ages.  A large oval amethyst gemstone set in gold is often referred to as a “bishop’s ring,” as this is the type of ring traditionally worn by bishops and other religious office holders.  Amethyst is a prominent feature in more than one of the British Crown Jewels, including an enormous amethyst adorning the Royal Sceptre.

Purple the World Over

Amethyst is found all over the world, with Brazil and Uruguay being the most important sources of amethyst gemstones, but it is also commercially mined in Canada, Pakistan, Madagascar and many other countries.  Prior to the discovery of rich amethyst deposits in the New World, fine amethyst was often mined in Russia.  To this day the highest grade of amethyst is called “Deep Russian.”

Amethyst is the official gemstone of the province of Ontario and the state of North Carolina.  In northern Ontario you’ll find Amethyst Mine Panorama, site of the largest amethyst deposit in North America.  Here, as at some other North American mines, visitors can dig for their own amethyst keepsakes!

Purple Power: February Birthstone Meanings

Purple Amethyst Pendant

Amethyst comes from the Greek word for intoxication, “methy.”  “A-methy-stos” means, roughly, “someone that does not get drunk,” and the Greeks thought amethyst to be an antidote against drunkenness (which is why wine goblets were often carved from it).

Perhaps because of the historical roots of the word, amethyst is said to have healing powers over the side effects of withdrawal from addictions, such as insomnia or headaches.  Also known as the “sobriety stone,” it has also been used as a talisman to prevent addictions from occurring in the first place.

Some of the characteristics associated with February’s birthstone include courage, internal strength and purity.  This mirrors some of the characteristics of the Zodiac sign Pisces (20 February to 20 March) with which amethyst is associated, particularly a selfless and unworldly disposition.

Amethyst is also said to strengthen the bonds in a loving relationship, making an fitting and meaningful stone to include in jewelry given as an anniversary gift.  And, of course, it couldn’t be more suitable as a gift for somebody celebrating a February birthday.

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