Gemstone Spotlight: Amethyst

by: Ben Tseytlin - on Antiques & Jewelry

Amethyst is considered by many to be one of the world’s most valuable gemstones. It is a member of the quartz family, and is the officially recognized birthstone for February. It has a macro crystalline structure and usually appears purple or violet due to the presence of aluminum and iron.

Origins and Characteristics

The most valuable amethyst stones display a deep, rich purple with outstanding saturation and little color zoning. Brazil holds the most sought after deposits, especially in Maraba and Rio Grande do Sul. Other key deposits are located in Sri Lanka, Russia, Uruguay, Bolivia, India, Canada, Arizona in the U.S. and Zambia. This stone will not showcase its top color in artificial light, and looks most spectacular when exposed to the light of the sun, especially during sunrise or sunset.

How To Buy Amethyst

When shopping for amethyst, stay away from green gems as these stones are produced through heat treatment and their green coloration disqualifies them from being authentic amethyst. Aside from Brazil, the most valuable variety that money can buy is Siberian Amethyst which has a fabulous purple color with flashes of blue and red. These stones always carry premium prices.

You also want to stay away from amethyst that has visible inclusions. The best stones are those which are “clean,” meaning that they are free of inclusions so that light can pass through them with ease. Since amethyst varies greatly in color distribution, this means most jewelers will cut it as ovals and rounds so that color is maximized.

Unlike other gems, amethyst is rarely subject to treatment. Some attempt to enhance them by heating, but most often this will lower their coloring agents and cause the citrine to be heated. Any jeweler you buy from must disclose if their amethyst gems have been subject to such treatment.

How To Wear And Care For Amethyst

Aside from its beauty, amethyst is prized for its durability, and can be worn in earrings, necklaces, rings and pendants. Traditionally the gem has mostly been worn by females, but can be an excellent stone for men as well. Purple is considered a royal color, and those who wear amethyst jewelry will convey as much. When worn by executives, directors or heads of state it will convey authority and prestige, especially if worn during morning or late afternoon meetings where the gem will be exposed to sunlight.

When choosing amethyst, be sure to make your selection based on size, not weight. The reason for this is because colored stones will differ in terms of their ratio of weight and size. While some amethyst stones will be larger than diamonds, others will be smaller.

Amethyst is simple to maintain. It can be cleansed with mild soap and water which is warm. You will want to wipe it down with a brush or cloth that is soft, because although amethyst is quite durable and hard, it is still vulnerable to scratching. Be careful when storing it in close proximity to other gems, as they might scratch it, and never use harsh chemicals to clean it.