Amethyst is the purple variety of crystalline quartz, a gemstone regularly used in jewellery. The name comes from the Ancient Greek word ‘amethustos’ meaning ‘not drunken’. The ancient Greeks and Romans would even make drinking vessels from it with the belief that it prevented intoxication. It was worn in battle as an amulet for protection and healing, often carved into intaglios depicting gods and heroic figures.
Rough amethyst crystals occur in geodes as impressive jutting hexagonal prisms, and they are also found in alluvial deposits as water worn pebbles in some areas. They are mined in many locations throughout the world, with the very best coming from Siberia, Brazil and Sri Lanka. The most valuable amethysts are prized for their depth of continual colour, a velvety richness of purple with a hint of blue. The colour of amethyst can vary from lilac, pale purple, lavender, through to deep mauve and pinky purple. It is the most prized member of the quartz family and with a hardness of 7 is wearable within jewellery. It can be fashioned into faceted shapes and rounded to domed cabochons, showcasing the colour to the best effect. Synthetic and treated amethysts are immeasurably less valuable than the superior natural untreated specimens.
Natural fine amethyst has been held in high regard and seen as a symbol of power over the years, featured in both the Crown Jewels and in Bishops’ rings. It was a popular jewel in the Victorian period of romance and sentimentality. Queen Victoria wore a mauve silk gown to the Royal Exhibition in 1862, and heart shape amethyst jewellery was fashionable as love tokens. It was often used in memorial jewellery and has always had religious connotations. Amethysts are seen in Suffragette jewellery, with purple being a colour of this movement. Queen Alexandra also loved the colour and so they continued to be favoured in the Edwardian period. Further to this the gemstone was set into cocktail rings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches and engagement rings throughout the twentieth century, adding a colour most desired.
Amethyst has played an important role in jewellery spanning the centuries, from promoting healing and memory, through to romance, religion, royal dignity, and women’s suffrage. A natural unenhanced fine amethyst of an intense rich purple is one to be truly admired. Find the perfect amethyst jewel in our collection of antique and vintage jewellery.