In the British Crown Jewels, a precious gem tops the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, the symbol of royal authority, sitting right above the Cullinan I, the largest diamond in the world. That regal gem is amethyst, long treasured for its rich purple color.
The color purple has been associated with royalty, power and wealth for millennia. Purple was the color of Roman magistrates. In Japan, purple is associated with the emperor. Queen Elizabeth I allowed only members of the royal family to wear it. In the Byzantine Empire, rulers wore flowing purple robes and signed their edicts in purple ink. Their children were described as being “born in the purple.”
With its royal color, Amethyst was originally considered one of the precious gems, along with ruby, sapphire, emerald and diamond. A text from 1652 says that amethyst is equal in value to a diamond of the same weight. It wasn’t until huge deposits were discovered in Brazil that amethyst became available and affordable for commoners too.
Amethyst is the purple variety of quartz, the mineral that makes up most of the sand on beaches around the world. Although quartz is common, making up 12 percent of the earth’s crust, crystals of amethyst with fine color are much more rare.
Treasured by the ancient Romans, amethyst was worn as a talisman to ward off the intoxicating powers of Bacchus. Amethyst comes from the Greek “amethystos” which means “not drunken.” That’s why amethyst symbolizes sobriety.
The legend of the origin of amethyst comes from Greek myth. Dionysus, the god of intoxication, was angry one day and created a tiger to take revenge on the next human that crossed his path. Along came unsuspecting Amethyst, a beautiful young girl on her way to the temple of the goddess Diana. When Amethyst asked Diana to protect her from the tiger’s claws, Diana turned her into a statue of pure quartz. Dionysus wept tears of wine in remorse at the sight of the statue of the innocent girl, staining the quartz purple.
Since the middle ages, Bishop’s rings have been set with amethyst as a symbol of piety and celibacy.
In the Brazilian town of Ametista do Sul, St Gabriel’s Church is decorated with 40 tons of amethyst crystals covering the walls. The baptismal font is crafted from a large amethyst geode.
The meaning of amethyst is peace and serenity. Buddhists believe that amethyst enhances the tranquility of meditation, making it the preferred choice for Tibetan rosaries even today.
Where Amethyst is Mined
The amethyst of the ancient world was probably mined in Sri Lanka and small deposits in Europe. In the 18th century fine amethyst was discovered in the Ural mountains in Russia. This historical deposit was known as “Siberian amethyst” and was said to be exceptionally fine with a dark purple color and rose-colored flashes. Even today, top quality amethyst is sometimes called “Siberian” even though the Russian deposit was mined out long ago.
Since early in the 19th century, most of the amethyst on the market has been mined in Brazil. Amethyst is mined across the country including in Marabá, Pau d’Arco, and Rio Grande do Sul. Uruguay and Bolivia also produce amethyst.
In the 1950s, deposits of amethyst were discovered in Zambia. Zambian amethyst has a medium dark purple with dark blue zones which add a depth to the color. Amethyst with an unusual pinkish purple color is found in Vietnam.
Small amounts of amethyst are also mined in Arizona at the Four Peaks mine in the mountains above Phoenix.
Amethyst Gemstone Engagement Rings
Here are some of our favorite amethyst gemstone engagement rings!
Why We Love Amethyst
Amethyst, the traditional birthstone for the month of February, is available in a wide range of sizes and shapes, including very large sizes. An amethyst in the Smithsonian is more that 1000 carats. Amethyst geodes can be large enough to stand in.
Amethyst is easy to love thanks to its royal color, large variety of sizes and shapes, affordability, and lovely shades from pale lavender to dark purple. Amethyst complements both warm and cool colors so it looks right set in both yellow gold, rose gold, white gold and silver. It looks good with everything in your closet too.
Amethyst is the gemstone for the 6th anniversary.
How to Buy Amethyst
Amethyst ranges from a light pastel purple to an intense and saturated royal hue. The best quality of amethyst has a rich saturated purple with rose-colored flashes inside.
At RockHer, we’ve matched our preferred amethyst colors to Pantone’s system to communicate the range of purple hues available. Which purple is your favorite?
Look for eye clean amethyst gemstones with no prominent inclusions. Since amethyst is widely available you shouldn't have to sacrifice on quality.
Cut quality is very important for the beauty of amethyst gemstones: a well-cut amethyst will sparkle evenly across the entire gemstone with no dull, washed out, or lifeless areas.
Amethyst Buying Guide Checklist
Amethyst Color: Medium saturated purple
Amethyst Clarity: Eye clean
Amethyst Shapes: Oval and rounds are most common
Amethyst Cut: Well proportioned, with overall brilliance
Amethyst Polish: Excellent
Amethyst Treatment: Heat
How to Care for Amethyst
Amethyst is a fairly durable gemstone with a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale. Its facets will slowly wear down over the generations because the dust in the air is quartz too. Although amethyst’s color is stable, avoid exposure to high heat.
To keep your rings clean, don't wear them when applying lotion or creams or using cleaning products like cleanser. Store all your gemstone jewelry separately, especially when travelling, so gems and metal can’t scratch each other. Clean with mild dish soap: use a soft brush behind the stone where dust can collect.
Amethyst vs Purple Sapphire
The purple gem most similar to amethyst is purple sapphire. In fact, in the Middle Ages purple sapphire was called “Oriental amethyst,” and purple quartz was known as “Occidental amethyst.” Sapphire is much harder than amethyst, with a Mohs hardness of 9, and also more durable. But purple sapphire is more expensive than amethyst too because its much more rare. Fine large examples can be thousands of dollars per carat.
Best Amethyst Engagement Ring Styles
The most popular amethyst engagement ring style is a diamond halo ring with a pave band. Amethyst also looks lovely in vintage style engagement ring settings. Three stone amethyst engagement rings most often have a round, emerald cut or or oval amethyst in the center and pear shaped or round diamonds on the side. Amethyst is complemented by all three colors of gold: white gold, yellow gold and rose gold.
What Amethyst Rings Cost
You’d be surprised how far your money can go shopping for an amethyst engagement ring. Here are our picks for gorgeous amethyst rings to fit some common amethyst engagement ring budgets.