Amethyst has been a popular gemstone for thousands of years. Once it was a gemstone only affordable by the rich. However, discoveries of vast deposits means it is now in reach of every gemstone enthusiast.
With its stunning purple and violet colors it is no surprise that amethyst jewelry is still very popular.
Table of Contents
- Properties, Color & Uses
- Buying Guide
- Care & Cleaning
- Image Gallery
- Similar Gemstones
What is Amethyst?
Amethyst is a quartz variety, just like citrine, ametrine and rose quartz. It has a hardness of 7 and has a high toughness. This makes it very useable in jewelry.
For the full range of scientific properties we refer you to Minerals.net.
Amethyst color ranges from a faint violet to a deep purple. Generally the deeper the purple, the higher the value of the stone. However, the most expensive color is a deep purple with a slight reddish hue (source: Gemval).
The best grade of this type is called “Deep Siberian Amethyst” and is mostly sold to collectors. Depending on the interest at that time it can sell for $100 to $300 per carat. This is up to 10 times higher than the ‘regular’ amethyst you will find in most jewelry stores.
The cause of the purple color of amethyst is not completely understood yet. However, it is almost certain that it is due to a combination of small amounts of iron and natural radioactive radiation (source: ICA).
- Green Amethyst. You will frequently see green amethyst when looking for jewelry. This is not the correct name for this stone. It is a green form of quartz that is called prasiolite. It is quite rare in nature, but heat-treating amethyst will sometimes turn it green. Usually it will turn yellow or orange (called citrine). It is against FTC guidelines to call prasiolite green amethyst (source: FTC Guideline 23.23a). However, it is not technically illegal and will likely never be enforced. Just know that you are not buying a natural stone when you buy green amethyst.
- Black Amethyst. Most of this is marketing at work again. Black amethyst is often simply black quartz or very dark smoky quartz. In some cases it is extremely dark purple amethyst. In that case the black is simply added to better describe the stone. Whatever the case may be, very few people would call ‘black amethyst’ beautiful. On the plus side this means that almost all ‘black amethyst’ you see has not been treated. Though it is probably not amethyst. For some discussion on the matter see this thread on: Mindat.org.
- Pink Amethyst. Usually pink amethyst is simply amethyst with a very light violet color called ‘Rose de France’. However, in some cases it is actually rose quartz that is labeled ‘pink amethyst’ so it sells for more.
- Blue Amethyst. There is no such thing as a blue amethyst. Some amethyst may have a deep violet color with a hint of blue. However it will never come close to a true blue color.
In general you should stay away from sellers using these marketing tricks. All they want is to sell their stones for a higher price. If they are willing to ignore FTC guidelines they are not someone you should be doing business with. If you like one of the stones we mentioned you should simply search for prasiolite or rose quartz. This way you are more likely to find an honest seller. Plus you will likely save money at the same time.
Amethyst can sometimes be found lining the walls of spaces in rocks. These geological structures are called ‘geodes’. Most of these geodes are fairly small (fist-sized). However, some geodes are over 3 meters tall and can weigh several tons.
The so-called ‘amethyst cathedrals’ are simply elongated geodes. Usually they are at least fist-sized. Sometimes people refer to single amethyst crystals as cathedrals, but this is not correct.
Most of the smaller geodes are sold to collectors. The largest and most spectacular ones are sold to museums. Everything in between is usually sold in smaller pieces or cut into gemstones if the color is good enough.
Amethyst geodes are quite rare in most of the world, but you can hunt for other geodes in many US states.
Amethyst is the traditional and modern birthstone of February.
Amethyst can be difficult to cut. This is due to an uneven color distribution. Often the purple color is only a small layer on the surface of the crystal. Still it is widely used in jewelry.
It is very popular with jewelry designers, because it is relatively cheap, can be found in all sizes and has a strong color.
In rare cases it is carved into an ornamental piece. It is also widely used in beading. This is due to its strong color and because there is an almost endless supply of lower grade stones.
There are no industrial uses for amethyst.
Amethyst Buying Guide
Today amethyst is a very affordable gemstone. However, it is still important to know a few things before buying loose amethyst or amethyst jewelry.
As mentioned at the start of this article, the value of amethyst has plummeted over the last two centuries. This was mostly caused by the discovery of large deposits in Brazil. Sadly a lot of lower quality gemstones are found in these deposits. Often they do not have a deep purple color or they have visible inclusions.
That is why high quality amethyst still sells for up to $60 per carat. These high quality stones are mostly found in Africa. They will often have the coveted violet color with hints of blue and red.
The amethysts you will most commonly find in jewelry stores will sell for $10 per carat for very light purple stones, to $40 per carat for deep dark violet stones.
After color, clarity is the most important factor for quality. As amethyst is a very common gemstone you should buy stones that are at least ‘eye clean’.
The prices mentioned above are for VVS clarity stones and in our opinion you should not settle for less.
Amethysts can be found in virtually any cut you can think of. The most popular cut (or shape if you prefer) is the round brilliant. This cut maximizes the color. Fancy cut amethyst is usually a bit more expensive. This is because only stones with a great color distribution can be used.
The most common gemstone treatment is heating and this no different for amethyst. Normally heating will change the color to yellow or orange (citrine). However, with the right heating it is also possible to permanently create a deeper purple color. The same applies to irradiation. This will also permanently create a deeper purple color. However, because amethyst is fairly cheap even for high quality stones it is often not treated at all.
In rare cases you can find fracture-filled amethysts. This means that fractures and holes in the stone have been filled with a clear material or even a colored material to improve the color of the stone. This is not a problem if it is disclosed, but it should be cheaper than natural amethyst. You should also be more careful when cleaning stones that have been fracture-filled.
There is synthetic amethyst on the market and without lab-testing it is not possible to detect it. As lab-testing is simply too expensive for most purchases you should only deal with reputable sellers.
There is a staggering amount of amethyst jewelry for sale. Virtually every jewelry store will sell at least a few pieces.
Because amethyst is relatively cheap it is often the jewelry itself that determines the price. A beautiful sterling silver amethyst ring can often be had for under $100. The same stone set in gold will set you back a few hundred dollars.
Amethyst Engagement Rings
An increasing number of people are interested in gemstone engagement rings. The more traditional options are (blue) sapphire, ruby and emerald. However, an amethyst engagement ring is certainly an option.
- The bold purple color will grab everyone’s attention.
- It is far cheaper than the traditional options. You will be able to purchase a bigger, higher quality stone and still save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
- You can wear it every day, but it is not as tough as diamond, sapphire or ruby. Over the years it will lose some of its luster and require re-polishing.
- It breaks tradition. Make sure that your partner doesn’t want a diamond instead!
- It does not have the sparkle of a diamond or the allure of a deep red ruby or vivid emerald.
How to Clean and Store Amethyst
- Cleaning amethyst is fairly simple. All you need is warm water, mild soap and a soft cloth. You should start by soaking the stone for a few minutes in warm water with a bit of mild soap. To remove stubborn dirt you can gently brush the amethyst with a piece of soft cloth or a soft brush. Afterwards you dry it with the soft cloth and it should be good as new! Amethyst can be cleaned with an ultrasonic cleaner. However, you have to make sure you did not buy a fracture-filled amethyst as these can shatter in an ultrasonic cleaner. Steam cleaners should be avoided as amethyst is heat-sensitive. Its color can change due to the high temperature of the steam.
- Storing amethyst is very straightforward. You should store it in a cool, dark and dry place. It should be stored in the dark because the color of amethyst can slightly fade if exposed to (natural) light for long periods. It should be cool and dry to prevent damage to the jewelry itself. You should also make sure that it cannot come into contact with other jewelry. A number of gemstones, including sapphire and diamond can easily cause scratches.
- In case your stone loses some of its luster (sparkle or shine) you can get it re-polished. This should not be expensive and almost every jeweler can do it for you.
Amethyst has been used as a gemstone for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks both used it extensively for engravings.
The word amethyst itself comes from the ancient Greek words for “not” and “intoxicated”. They believed that the stone could protect them from drunkenness (or at least the aftermath). So widespread was this belief that nobles would decorate their mugs with amethysts. This was extremely expensive at the time.
In the Middle Ages amethyst was the gemstone of the Catholic Church as it symbolized trust and piety. That is why it can often be seen in the jewelry from that period that was worn by cardinals, bishops and royalty.
Over the centuries many different amethyst meanings could be found in cultures all over the world. A dizzying array of powers were attributed to it: from protection against evil and snakebites, to good luck when hunting or protection in wars.
Even today amethyst is widely used in gemstone therapy and many people swear by its powers.
Amethyst Image Gallery
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This video showcases a stunning amethyst crystal cluster from Brazil. The video is in Portuguese, but you don’t need to understand the language to appreciate the beauty of this cluster.
Quite a few gemstones can be found in violet or purple colors. However, the deep purple or violet colors of high quality amethyst is hard to match.
Fluorite is the only gemstone that regularly comes close to the deep purple color, but it is far softer (hardness 4) and mostly a collectors stone. Apatite is another similar stone, but is rarely found in purple crystals and it is also softer (5 hardness). Both of these stones are not suitable for use in jewelry.
Purple spinel (hardness 7.5-8) and purple sapphire (hardness 9) are more suitable for jewelry than amethyst. However, both of these stones are quite rare and far more expensive than even the highest quality amethyst.