Bacchus, the god of wine and conviviality, was angry because of some slight against him and swore revenge. He announced that the first mortal to come across his path would be eaten by tigers. Just at that moment along came the lovely maiden Amethyst, on her way to worship at the shrine of the goddess Diana. Diana saw what was happening and transformed Amethyst into stone to rescue her from a violent death. When Bacchus viewed the miracle, he repented and poured wine over the stone, staining it purple. This is the legendary creation of the gemstone amethyst.
Amethyst in the Bible
The Bible tells us of a jewelled breastplate worn by Aaron, the high priest of the Hebrews. It contained twelve precious stones. The amethyst was the third stone in the third row. In the New Testament, these stones became the foundation of the New Jerusalem described in Revelation. Each gemstone was identified with a prophet. The amethyst stood for Math's, who had the gift of tongues and was filled with the desire to please God.
A Royal Gemstone
Amethyst is a variety of quarts which occurs in a transparent light to dark purple. It has long been treasured by kings and queens as well as high figures in religious sects because of its rich, royal color. This gem can be traced back to the Minoan period in Greece (c. 2500 B.C.) when it was found as polished cabochons (dome-shaped stones) set in gold. It is represented in many artistic eras since then.
During the 15th century the French fleur-de-lis brooch could only be worn by the Royal family on ceremonial occasions. The one surviving example of this art form is part of the Royal regalia of France. The fleur-de-lis design on it is set with sapphires and amethysts.
Amethysts were popular in the parures (matching sets) of the 1820's. They were a favorite medium for Art Nouveau craftsmen and are still favorites of the most creative modern jewelry designers. A major reason for their popularity in jewelry design has been their wide availability and modest price. Large, fine pieces were always easily attainable and lent themselves to freedom of design. It is only in the last few years that fine quality amethyst has become somewhat scarce.
Today the two main sources of amethyst are Brazil and Zambia. It is also found in Uruguay, Russia, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Zimbabwe-Rhodesia and our own state of Arizona. With the increasing scarcity of fine amethyst, a manmade duplicate has come onto the market. Amethyst is always desirable, but when fashion includes the rich palette of lilacs, lavenders and royal purples, its popularity soars.
The Artists Touch
Amethyst is fashioned in a number of different ways. It is faceted or polished into a cabochon for rings, pendants, earrings and cuff links. It may be carved into violet petals for a pendant or earrings or into a cluster of grapes for a brooch. Beads of amethyst are strung in various lengths, sometimes polished, sometimes not. They may be combined with gold beads, pearls, rock crystal or other colored stone beads. Amethysts look especially rich when set in gold and accented with diamonds.
Making a Wise Choice
Since subtle differences in quality can make large differences in beauty (and price), it is important to select your jewelry from a professional who can guide you honestly and ethically in your purchase. Our firm is a member of the American Gem Society. As a condition of membership, we are re-examined each year to meet the Society's high standards for knowledge, professionalism and integrity. The AGS symbol is the hallmark of consumer protection within the jewelry profession - as it has been for over 50 years. Many gems are processed to enhance their natural beauty. Ask your American Gem Society jeweler to discuss which techniques might apply to the gem of your choice.