Amethyst is a violet variety of quartz often used as an ornamental stone in jewelry. The name comes from the Ancient Greek a- ("not") and methustos ("intoxicated"), a reference to the belief that the stone protected its owner from drunkenness; the ancient Greeks and Romans wore amethyst and made drinking vessels of it in the belief that it would prevent intoxication.
In the 20th century, the color of amethyst was attributed to the presence of manganese. However, since it is capable of being greatly altered and even discharged by heat, the color was believed by some authorities to be from an organic source. Ferric thiocyanate was suggested, and sulfur was said to have been detected in the mineral.
On exposure to heat, amethyst generally becomes yellow, and much of the citrine, cairngorm, or yellow quartz of jewelry is said to be merely "burnt amethyst". Veins of amethystine quartz are apt to lose their color on the exposed outcrop.
Synthetic amethyst is made to imitate the best quality amethyst. Its chemical and physical properties are so similar to that of natural amethyst that it can not be differentiated with absolute certainty without advanced gemological testing (which is often cost-prohibitive). There is one test (which is not 100 percent certain) based on "Brazil law twinning" (a form of quartz twinning where right and left hand quartz structures are combined in a single crystal which can be used to identify synthetic amethyst rather easily. In theory however it is possible to create this material synthetically as well, but this type is not available in large quantities in the market.
Because it has a hardness of seven on the Mohs scale, amethyst is suitable for use in jewelry.
Purple corundum, or sapphire of amethystine tint, is called Oriental amethyst, but this expression is often applied by jewelers to fine examples of the ordinary amethystine quartz, even when not derived from eastern sources. Professional gemological associations, such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the American Gemological Society (AGS), discourage the use of the term "Oriental amethyst" to describe any gem, as it may be misleading.
The Second Book of Pseudo-Albertus Magnus, Of the Vertues of Certaine Stones, refers to amethysts by the name Amarictus.
Amethyst is produced in abundance from the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil where it occurs in large geodes within volcanic rocks. It is also found and mined in South Korea. The largest opencast amethyst vein in the world is in Maissau, Lower Austria. Many of the hollow agates of Brazil and Uruguay contain a crop of amethyst crystals in the interior. Much fine amethyst comes from Russia, especially from near Mursinka in the Ekaterinburg district, where it occurs in drusy cavities in granitic rocks. Many localities in India yield amethyst. One of the largest global amethyst producers is Zambia with an annual production of about 1,000 t. Amethyst occurs at many localities in the United States, but these specimens are rarely fine enough for use in jewelry. Among these may be mentioned Amethyst Mountain, Texas; Yellowstone National Park; Delaware County, Pennsylvania; Haywood County, North Carolina; Deer Hill and Stow, Maine. It is found also in the Lake Superior region. Amethyst is relatively common in Ontario, and in various locations throughout Nova Scotia, but uncommon elsewhere in Canada.
Amethyst is the birthstone associated with February. It is also associated with the astrological signs of Pisces, Aries (especially the violet and purple variety), Aquarius, and Sagittarius. It is a symbol of heavenly understanding, and of the pioneer in thought and action on the philosophical, religious, spiritual, and material planes. Ranking members of the Roman Catholic Church traditionally wear rings set with a large amethyst as part of their office.
The Greek word "amethystos" (αμέθυστος) basically can be translated as "not drunken". Amethyst was considered to be a strong antidote against drunkenness, which is why wine goblets were often carved from it. Supposedly, when a drunken Dionysus was pursuing a maiden called Amethystos, who refused his affections, she prayed to the gods to remain chaste. The goddess Artemis granted the prayer, transforming her into a white stone; humbled by Amethystos' desire to remain chaste, Dionysus poured wine over the stone she had become as an offering, dyeing the crystals purple.
Variants of the story include that Dionysus, the god of intoxication, had been insulted by a mortal and swore revenge on the next mortal who crossed his path, creating fierce tigers to carry out his wish; the mortal turned out to be a beautiful young woman, Amethystos, who was on her way to pay tribute to Artemis. Her life is spared by Artemis, who transforms the maiden into a statue of pure crystalline quartz to protect her from the brutal claws. Dionysus wept tears of wine in remorse for his action at the sight of the beautiful statue. The god's tears stained the quartz purple. Another variation involves the goddess Rhea presenting Dionysus with the amethyst stone to preserve the winedrinker's sanity.