A Sobering Origin Story: An Examination into February’s Birthstone, the Amethyst

Amethyst Gemstone History Jewelry Jewelry blog Jewelry Care Jewelry Education Jewelry Knowledge Jewelry Library Jewels LJ & Diamonds Semi-precious stone Stone Stone blog Stone Library Stones


Classification:  Semi-Precious stone
Colour: Violet/pale red violet
Hardness: 7
Fluorescence: Weak; greenish
Transparency: Transparent/translucent

 History and Lore

Ah mom’s favourite; the amethyst. Whether it’s the brilliant purple or just the fact that it’s everywhere, almost all moms love amethysts. It’s safe to say that the February birthstone is the world’s favourite semi-precious gem. It also just so happens to be the most highly valued member of the quartz family. In fact, up until the 19th century amethysts were just as valuable as rubies, sapphires and emeralds. The rich violet stone has been set in royal jewelry and religious accessories for centuries. Even today the highest quality amethysts garnish the fingers of bishops and adorn the coronation regalia of English royalty. Ou fancy.

The provenance of the name “amethyst” is probably one of the more disturbing gemstone origin stories out there. This stone’s name is derived from the ancient Greek word amethustos, which translates to “not intoxicated” or “sober”. The name is based on the story of a young virgin named Amethyst. Amethyst, through no fault her own, infuriated the drunk God Dionysus, by refusing his advances. While running from him Amethyst desperately pleaded for help to the Goddess Diana. In response Diana turned the poor girl into a sparkling pure white stone.

After finding out that the girl had been permanently transformed into an inanimate object just to escape him, Dionysus became ashamed of his unruly and savage behaviour.In his remorse Dionysus’ tears overflowed his goblet of red wine, which then spilled over and soaked the white stone until it became a rich purple. quartz. It was said the sorrow-stained stone could prevent the bearer from becoming overly drunk and could instill a clear and mindful mentality. That is both devastatingly sad and disturbingly fascinating.

Surprisingly enough, this idea of amethysts imparting sobriety is not just a Greek ideology, but an ancient Egyptian one as well. In ancient Egyptian astrology the sign of the Goat was represented by an amethyst, and the goat was believed to be the enemy of grape vines and vineyards. Make sense, since goats eat pretty much everything. And thus, the goat-personified amethyst was seen as the antidote for wine induced drunkenness. They even believed that drinking from a cup made of amethyst would stop one from becoming drunk entirely. 

Catherine the Great wearing her famous amethyst earrings

Over the years the literal and spiritual meaning of the amethyst changed, but still remained a source of goodness and purity. In the Middle Ages the jewel was worn by Catholic clergymen as a symbol of piety and chastity. During the Renaissance the jewel embodied humility and modesty. At one-point amethysts were only worn by the aristocracy, because purple became a colour only royals could wear. It’s said that the semi-precious stone was Catherine the Great’s favourite accessory. Today in holistic medicine amethysts are used to relieve headaches. No matter the time period or region this mystical wine-stained stone has been believed to heal and represent a mindfulness of ideology.


Purple is the primary colour of this gemstone. But it is important to note that it does come in various shades of purple ranging from the palest of lilac to the darkest of royal violets.

For the most part it is a transparent stone, meaning while there is visible colour you can still clearly see through it. But it can also be translucent, meaning you can only partly see through it. Don’t worry both of these states are completely natural. However, if you are looking to get the highest quality of amethyst, you would want to follow the general rule of thumb for measuring the quality of colour stones: the richer in colour and clearer the stone, the better. Now when I say richer, I mean you want that perfect balance of well saturated but not too dark and not too light. That tends to be slightly darker than the medium shade.

Green amethyst next to traditional purple amethyst
There is one other colour the amethyst comes in and that is green. The green amethyst, when found in nature is extremely rare. Most of the green amethysts found on the market are in fact heat treated. Heat treated is exactly as it sounds. If you take a common purple amethyst and heat it up anywhere between 470°- 750°C (or 878-1382°F) you can change the colour of the stone to a desired green colour. In doing so you also essentially melt away the majority of naturally occurring inclusions. Heat treatment is a good way of making a less expensive stone appear to be of a higher quality. But keep in mind that this does not give you a high-quality piece, it is simply altered to appear as such.


Raw amethysts mined out of Thunder Bay Canada - Canadian Amethysts
Amethysts are produced in abundance in the few places they are found. Regions where amethysts are mined include: Brazil, Uruguay, the Malagasy Republic, and Canada. That’s right amethysts are a Canadian stone! The main source of the purple jewel in Canada is near Thunder Bay, Ontario. Scientists believe that the deposits of amethyst found near Thunder Bay are actually over a wapping 1 billion years old! Canada represent!


On the Mohs scale of hardness amethyst sits at a comfy 7. This tells us that with the proper care and maintenance February’s stone of the month makes for a decent everyday piece. But that isn’t to say that you can be rough with it. Well, generally speaking you shouldn’t be rough when ANY of your jewelry. To put it in perspective you can wear amethysts often but don’t work with your hand while wearing the stone. Amethysts are prone to chipping and cracking when treated poorly.

 Care and Maintenance

To properly care for you amethysts, wear them with care and be mindful not to hit them off of any hard surfaces. And be sure to store them in a dark place when you aren’t wearing them, or else that brilliant purple colour that you love so much will fade in the light over time like that of many other coloured gemstones.

Since we already learned that amethysts are susceptible to heat, we know that to clean the stone we don’t want to use any heat-based methods. Since the hardness of the stone only being a 7, heat-based methods such as steam cleaning will make the stone crack and/or chip. To properly clean your amethyst jewelry, we recommend that you use lukewarm water, gentle fragrance-free liquid soap, and a very soft toothbrush. This will allow you to get into all those tight nooks and crannies where dirt builds up, as well as ensuring the integrity of your amethyst.

As always, we suggest that you take your piece to get a check-up once or twice a year. Just like the human body a piece of jewelry needs to be inspected every now and then by a professional to keep it well maintained and make it last much longer.


The history of the amethyst is a sobering – pun intended – and thought-provoking story. It has led to the permanent incorporation of the gem in society. Whether as a means of accentuating one’s beauty, clearing one’s mind, or connecting one’s self to their spirituality, the amethyst is a stone that will bring joy and comfort to anyone.

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published