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February's Birthstone: The Alluring Amethyst

Photo via Flickr (uclmaps)

Although my birthday isn't in February, I still love the shades of lavender and purple that the amethyst encompasses. I went through a phase when I loved buying amethyst jewelry pieces. Although they are supposed to protect the wearer from drunkenness and keep them protected, I simply like the beautiful color that the stone encompasses. I wear my amethyst pieces with casual wear, and I even have a piece that I can wear with more formal attire. Too bad I wasn't born in the second month of the year: That would give me even more reason to purchase this breathtaking stone!

The History of the Amethyst

The word "amethyst" comes from a Greek word that means "to not drink" or "not drunk." The wearer is said to be prevented from getting intoxicated. It was believed that Bacchus, the god of wine in Greco-Roman mythology, poured wine over the beautiful maiden Amethyst and she immediately turned to the deep purple wine color.

The amethyst has been known as a gemstone as far back as prehistoric times. It has even been found in the remains of people from Neolithic times. Cleopatra had a signet ring that was made of amethyst, and even St. Valentine wore the stone, engraved with a figure of Cupid. It was the stone that many ancient people wore into battle, as it was supposed to bring victory and protect soldiers.

Ancient Egyptians believed that the deep purple stone gave the wearer special powers, but it wasn't until the Middle Ages when the stone was used for medicinal purposes, allegedly allowing the wearer to get good sleep, be smarter, and be protected from bad dreams, evil spells, and witchcraft.

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Colors of the Amethyst

There is a broad range in the color of the amethyst. It's believed to be the color that it is because of the iron oxide within the stone, but scientists aren't positive exactly why the stone is purple. Amethysts can be found ranging from a light mauve color all the way to a rich and deep purple shade. Heat changes the color of the amethyst and can make the stone turn green. Upon being heated to more than 400 degrees Celsius, amethysts can turn from purple to a deep red or even brownish yellow. The color of the stone can fade over time, especially when worn often in the sun.

Mining Amethyst

The amethyst is most commonly found in Brazil, Uruguay, and Madagascar. The stones found in Brazil happen to be a lighter shade of purple, while those found in Madagascar tend to be more violet or a deeper shade of red. The stones found in Uruguay have the best and deepest shade of purple but tend to be more blemished. Other areas in the world that have been known to mine the amethyst include Canada, Italy, South America, Russia, China, and Sri Lanka.

Famous Amethysts

One of the largest pieces of amethyst ever to be mined was found in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, in 1900. The stones that came from this find weighed in at more than 700 total carats. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History has one of these amazing pieces, and it weighs in at more than 400 pounds! A stone found in Maine in 1993 had a total of more than 2,200 pounds of amethyst stones that were able to be cut. And the world's largest amethyst geode, called the "Empress of Uruguay," weighs more than 5,500 pounds and is on display at a museum in Australia.