By Benjamin St. Jacques
Millions of people around the world enjoy wearing birthstone jewelry and giving birthstone jewelry to friends and family as gifts. It’s common to feel a natural connection to the unique appearance, qualities, and colors of your birthstone. Although the idea of birthstones can be traced back to ancient times, the official modern list of birthstones was defined in 1912, by the National Association of Jewelers who chose one stone to represent each month of the Gregorian Calendar. This month, we wanted to tell you about the history and significance of February’s birthstone, amethyst.
AMETHYST’S UNIQUE APPEARANCE
As a gemstone, amethyst is the most highly prized variety of quartz and gets its fascinating hues—which range from deep purples to lighter lilacs—from iron impurities and the presence of trace elements. It often occurs in hexagonal-shaped crystals and is found in metamorphic rocks, particularly granite. Amethyst’s hardness and durability makes an ideal gemstone for all types of jewelry.
AMETHYST THROUGHOUT HISTORY
Amethyst has been a prized gem for centuries in several cultures around the globe. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed the gem could ward off the intoxicating powers of wine, and keep the wearer of amethyst jewelry clear-headed.
The color purple has always been associated with powerful monarchs and rulers so it makes sense that ancient Egyptian pharaohs adorned themselves with amethyst, and the purple gem was among the crown jewels worn by British royalty for centuries. Rumor has it that amethyst was the favorite gem of Queen Catherine the Great of Russia who ruled in the latter half of the 18th century.
Amethyst has been woven into major religious traditions as well. Centuries ago, Catholic bishops wore amethyst rings, as the royal purple color was thought to symbolize Christ. Furthermore, the stone itself was believed to ward off evil spirits and heal wounds. Those who kissed the ring were thought to be protected as well. Even Tibetan Buddhists have a spiritual connection to the gem as it is used in the creation of prayer beads to this day.
THE USES OF AMETHYST
Throughout history, amethyst was only ever associated with positivity and good fortune. If worn as a necklace or pendant, the stone was thought to enhance intelligence, protect warriors in battle, promote quick thinking, help hunters find game, offer protection from disease, and increase the shrewdness of those involved in business or real estate transactions. In addition, ancient healers around the world have relied on amethyst as a remedy for many ailments from skin blemishes, to stomach pains, to breathing issues.
February’s birthstone is still popular among those in today’s natural healing world. Amethysts are recommended for those who have stressful careers or busy lifestyles as it is believed to help calm the mind, promote relaxation, and encourage restful sleep. It is also thought to be useful for soothing headaches, lifting the mood, and promoting overall mental clarity.
AMETHYST IN IRELAND
For centuries, amethysts were considered to be as valuable and rare as diamonds. Today however, we know that amethyst is plentiful which makes it fairly inexpensive, but no less beautiful. In fact, there are very few parts of the world where you can’t find the gem.
Although it’s known as the “emerald isle” some of the world’s most gorgeous amethyst can be found in Ireland. More specifically, you’ll find amethyst on Achill Island, the largest of the Irish isles situated off the west coast of mainland Ireland.
The island is easily accessible by car via a recently modernized bridge. Once on the island, you’ll want to drive toward Keem Bay, along a clifftop road, taking in the fabulous views along the way. This road crosses a local geological boundary, exposing a thick seam of amethyst quartz in the side of the cliff. You can enjoy the sparkle of the cache of gems and even hunt for some natural amethyst to take home.
So for all you treasure seekers out there, why not come to Achill Island and hunt for some amethyst? If you decide you’re up for the adventure, here’s a quick tip: the best time to search is immediately after a heavy rainfall. Lucky for you, Ireland gets plenty of that.
CARING FOR YOUR AMETHYST JEWELRY
Caring for amethyst is fairly simple. Keep your amethyst jewelry out of direct sunlight and excessive heat to help prevent deterioration of the colors. To clean your gemstone, use a soft toothbrush or cloth and a solution of mild dish soap and warm water to gently scrub the stone. Avoid using household cleaners, bleach, or polishes. Make sure you keep it protected from bath and beauty products like hairspray, perfume, and aerosol deodorant.
AMETHYST’S ENDURING BEAUTY
Today, amethyst is as popular as it ever was. Some love it for its purported positive influence on our physical, mental, and emotional health, while many others value February’s birthstone for purely aesthetic reasons. The fact is, amethyst is a lovely and affordable gemstone that is fortunately available in a wide variety of cut and uncut stones that we can all possess and admire. There’s no doubt that amethyst will continue to be a favorite among gemstone lovers for decades and even centuries to come.
Shop ShamrockGift.com’s entire birthstone jewelry collection today for more gift ideas.