The first step in amethyst receiving its purple color begins during crystal growth, when trace amounts of iron are incorporated into a growing quartz crystal. After crystallization, gamma rays, emitted by radioactive materials within the host rock, irradiate the iron to produce the purple color.
The intensity of the purple color can vary from one part of the crystal to another. These color variations, known as “color zoning,” are obvious in many amethyst crystal specimens and often reflect the crystal's hexagonal geometry. The most intense purple color is often seen near the termination of the crystals.
Amethyst crystals grow slowly, and the composition of the waters from which they grow can change over time. As the composition of the water changes, varying amounts of iron are incorporated into the surface of the crystal. Later, radiation emitted by minerals in the surrounding rock modify the iron to produce the purple color. This can cause the crystal to have zones of different color intensity. Each of these zones records a time interval in the growth of the crystal similar to the growth rings of a tree.
Energetically, Amethyst has been highly esteemed throughout the ages for its stunning beauty and legendary powers to stimulate, and soothe the mind and emotions. It is a semi-precious stone in today’s classifications, but to the ancients it was a “Gem of Fire,” a Precious Stone worth, at times in history, as much as a Diamond. It has always been associated with February, the month the Romans dedicated to Neptune, their water-god, and is the traditional birthstone of that month. It is the stone of St. Valentine and faithful love, and signifies ecclesiastical dignity as the Bishop’s Stone. It carries the energy of fire and passion, creativity and spirituality, yet bears the logic of temperance and sobriety.
Whether its crystals are left natural, polished as tumblestones, or faceted into magnificent jewels, Amethyst is a gem whose beauty transcends its commonality. It is a variety of Quartz found in many locations around the world, and forms as transparent, terminated crystals of all sizes in geodes, clusters, and as long single terminations. It is also found in vitreous masses and polished into wonderful specimens and personal talismans. The presence of manganese in clear Quartz produces Amethyst, while additional amounts of iron vary the purple coloration. Amethyst ranges in hue from pale red-violet to deep violet, and may be transparent or opaque. It is sometimes layered with white Quartz as Chevron Amethyst, found in combination with Cacoxenite, mixed with Citrine as Ametrine, or in rare cases, “rutilated” with Goethite.
The name Amethyst derives from the Greek wordametusthos, meaning “not intoxicated,” and comes from an ancient legend. The wine god Bacchus, angry over an insult and determined to avenge himself decreed the first person he should meet would be devoured by his tigers. The unfortunate mortal happened to be a beautiful maiden named Amethyst on her way to worship at the shrine of Diana. As the ferocious beasts sprang, she sought the protection of the goddess and was saved by being turned into a clear, white crystal. Bacchus, regretting his cruelty, poured the juice of his grapes over the stone as an offering, giving the gem its lovely purple hue.
Physical Properties of Amethyst
By definition, amethyst is purple in color, the most popular color is a reddish purple with rich saturation.
Colorless (harder than the streak plate)
Transparent to translucent
None - typically breaks with a conchoidal fracture
2.6 to 2.7
Conchoidal fracture, glassy luster, hardness, purple color