(Hello all – I am reprising a series of folklore posts I started a few years back for the Beads of Clay blog. I was researching gemstones/birthstones, their folklore, symbolism, and any famous – or infamous – specimens. While I am off a month as to the birthstones calendar – let me start here with Amethyst, February’s Birthstone. Enjoy!)
Folklore Friday – Amethyst.
Color: Purple, violet, pale red-violet
Chemical composition: SiO, silicon dioxide
Crystal system: (Trigonal), hexagonal prisms
Hardness: 7 (Mohs scale)
Amethyst location and depositsThe most important deposits are in Brazil, namely the “Palmeira” amethysts of Rio Grande do Sul and the “Maraba” amethysts of Para. Other deposits are found in Bolivia, Canada, India, Madagascar, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Namibia, Russia, Sri Lanka, United States (Arizona), Uruguay and Zambia.
Amethyst is a variety of quartz which occurs in transparent light to dark purple. The darker more intense colors are more valuable than the lighter smoky or lavender color. Dark rich, royal colors of amethyst have been treasured by kings and queens for centuries and can be traced back to the Minoan period in Greece (c. 2500 B.C.). During the 15th century the French fleur-de-lis brooch could only be worn by the Royal family on ceremonial occasions. (Logical as purple has long been a color associated with royalty – due to the nature of the rare dyes used to create the color.)
- The name comes from the Ancient Greek ἀ a- (“not”) and μέθυστος methustos (“intoxicated”), a reference to the belief that the stone protected its owner from drunkenness. The ancient Greeks and Romans wore amethyst and made drinking vessels of it in the belief that it would prevent intoxication.
- Medieval Bishop’s wore amethyst rings – in an effort to keep these powerful men sober and in control of their faculties!
- Amethyst beads have been unearthed in Anglo Saxon graves in England.
- In the Egyptian book of the dead, instructions are given for placing heart shaped amethysts on the body of the deceased.
- By far my favorite treasure I have discovered about amethyst? This myth from Ancient Greece – by way of a romantic French troubadour of the 16th century :
Dionysus, the god of intoxication, of wine, and grapes was pursuing a maiden named Amethystos, who refused his affections. Amethystos prayed to the gods to remain chaste, a prayer which the goddess Artemis answered, transforming her into a white stone. Humbled by Amethystos’s desire to remain chaste, Dionysus poured wine over the stone as an offering, dyeing the crystals purple.
Variations of the story include that Dionysus had been insulted by a mortal and swore to slay the next mortal who crossed his path, creating fierce tigers to carry out his wrath. The mortal turned out to be a beautiful young woman, Amethystos, who was on her way to pay tribute to Artemis. Her life was spared by Artemis, who transformed the maiden into a statue of pure crystalline quartz to protect her from the brutal claws. Dionysus wept tears of wine in remorse for his action at the sight of the beautiful statue. The god’s tears then stained the quartz purple.
Portrait of Roman Emperor Caracalla; Amethyst intaglio, ca. 212 CE.
From the treasury of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.
Attributes of Amethyst:
- thought to be helpful in overcoming addiction.
- used for hearing disorders, insomnia, headaches and other pain.
- Worn to make the wearer gentle and amiable.
- Amethyst powers include: dreams, healing, peace, love, spiritual upliftment, courage, protection against thieves, and happiness.
Stay tuned for more folklore – coming soon!
What’s YOUR favorite gemstone?