Color: Pale lavender to deep purple
Gem Family: Amethyst is a unique member of the quartz family.
Source: Mined in mainly in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, and African countries like Zambia and Namibia, small amounts of amethyst are also found in Arizona at the Four Peaks mine near Phoenix.
Clarity: Usually free of eye-visible inclusions
Size Range: Like all quartz gems, amethyst is relatively plentiful and is available in a wide range of sizes and shapes, including very large sizes. For extra brilliance, many Iris Amethysts are polished into Radial CutsTM, which have clever curved facets that focus light like lenses.
Shapes Available: Ovals, cushions, checkerboards, round brilliants, trillions, princess cuts, Portuguese rounds, opposed bars, and a variety of Radial Cuts.
Enhancement: Most amethyst is untreated but some very dark amethyst tones will be heated at low temperatures to lighten the color slightly. There is a synthetic amethyst that is manufactured in Russia, China, and other places. A few suppliers, like Columbia Gem House and Trigem Designs, will guarantee the natural origin of their amethyst because they control the chain of custody from the mine to the market. Only a few labs, primarily the American Gem Trade Association's Gemological Testing Center in New York, can separate synthetic from natural amethyst, so exercise caution with bargain buys.
Lore & History: Amethyst comes from the Greek amethystos which means "not drunken." Wine goblets were carved from this purple gem because it was considered to prevent drunkenness. (Of course, the purple color would have also allowed hosts to water down the wine!) Buddhists believe amethyst aids meditation, and today it continues to be used for rosaries in Tibet. Great thinkers like Leonardo da Vinci believed that amethyst could dissipate evil thoughts and quicken the intelligence. Amethyst is the birthstone for February and the zodiac stone for Pisces.
Toughness & Hardness: The hardness of amethyst is 7 on the Mohs scale and it is quite tough.
Care & Cleaning: Amethyst is very durable but try to avoid exposure to excessive heat. Clean with warm water, detergent, and a soft brush. Amethyst can be put in ultrasonic or steam cleaners.
Special Characteristics: The legend of the origin of amethyst comes from Greek myth. Dionysus, the god of intoxication, was angered one day by an insult from a man and swore revenge on the next mortal that crossed his path, creating fierce tigers to carry out his wish. Along came unsuspecting Amethyst, a beautiful young maiden on her way to pay tribute to the goddess Diana. Diana turned Amethyst into a stature of pure crystalline quartz to protect her from the brutal claws. Dionysus wept tears of wine in remorse for his cruel act. The god's tears stained the quartz purple, creating the gem we know today as amethyst.