Plenty of four-year-olds will tell you that their favorite color is purple, a hue that’s linked to princesses, wizard caps, unicorn manes and magic crayons. As such, many will grow up to have an implicit affection for amethyst, which comes in a spectrum of light-to-vivid shades. Some may even recall that the protagonist of the book Anne of Green Gables imagines that diamonds are purple until she sees an amethyst for the first time, set in a brooch. “Do you think amethysts can be the souls of good violets?” she asks.
Fortunately, we understand the gemological particulars of amethyst entirely. The gem is the rarest member of the quartz family and was once considered rarer and more valuable than diamonds. It became less exclusive when substantial deposits were found in Brazil in the 1800s and today the best amethyst hails from that country and other parts of South America, Mexico and the African nations of Zambia, Namibia and Tanzania.
Connoisseurs and collectors are partial to Siberian (also known as “Deep Russian”) amethyst harvested from the famed Ural Mountains—the rarest and highest quality available due to its exceptionally vibrant, velvety purple color.
The word “amethyst” is a derivative of the word amethystos, the Greek word for “not intoxicated.” They believed that the stone could ward off the potent, mind-altering effects of alcohol because of a myth involving Dionysus (everyone’s favorite lush) and a nymph he hoped to seduce. Today you’ll still hear references to the stone’s ability to at least prevent a hangover (just for laughs, feel free to make mention of this the next time you find yourself at an industry event).
Purple is a color long associated with royalty, and amethysts have accessorized regal ensembles for thousands of years. Cleopatra wore an amethyst ring. The Sovereign’s Scepter, one of the most famous of the Crown Jewels originally created for Charles II in 1661, is garnished with an enormous amethyst sphere. And this article details the many, many magnificent amethyst parures and tiaras worn by everyone from Princess Stephanie of Luxembourg and The Duchess of Cornwall to Queen Elizabeth herself.
No question that amethyst is a stunning when set in jewelry, but anyone who has ever attended the Tucson gem show knows they are equally prized in crystal form—imagine a pair of 6-foot-high amethyst cathedral geodes gracing the entryway of your home. (For perspective, a 12-foot-high amethyst glamazon greets visitors at the newly redesigned gem and mineral hall at the American Museum of Natural History.)
Beyond its purported ability to temper the effects of intoxication, amethyst is considered a healing, cleansing crystal, promoting peace and harmony within the mind and spirit. To wit: the Hebrew word for amethyst is ahlamah, or “dream stone” because the gem was believed to calm the mind, resulting in pleasant dreams.
Even so, would you be able to sleep while wearing one of the amethyst jewels showcased below? The ones with that electric purple hue are practically begging for an all-nighter, but they’re all pretty dreamy. —Amy Elliott
Top photo: Koko ring in 18k gold with 50.76 ct. emerald-cut amethyst, $3,500; Misahara