February birthstone: Amethyst
If you’re feeling guilty about falling off the wagon now that dry January is over, then the February birthstone, amethyst, might just be the stone for you! The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that amethyst could prevent intoxication – in fact, the word ‘amethyst’ even means ‘not drunken’ in ancient Greek.
Ranging from light violet to a rich purple, amethyst’s beautiful hue is caused by the natural irradiation of trace amounts of iron in its crystal structure. The more iron present, the deeper the colour – and the deeper the colour, the more prized the amethyst. Siberia is considered to produce the finest amethyst colour – a deep purple with rose flashes, but the lighter lavender colours have become popular in more recent years, thanks to their lower price point and their pretty pastel shades.
A variety of quartz, amethyst measures 7 on the Mohs scale, which makes it a reasonably durable stone and suitable for everyday jewellery, such as rings and bracelets. Though you’ll tend to find amethyst predominantly set in silver, try a gold setting for a more modern, romantic look. Talking of romance, amethyst also signifies everlasting love, so amethyst jewellery would make a heartfelt gift for a partner with a February birthday – just make sure it’s not misconstrued as a comment on their drinking habits!
No doubt belief in amethyst’s sobering properties was related to its purple colour – the colour of wine. Since purple is also the traditional colour of royalty, it’s no surprise that amethyst has been also beloved of rulers over the centuries. From ancient royal drinking cups carved entirely from amethyst, to the enormous heart-shaped amethyst necklace worn by the Duchess of Cornwall at the premiere of Bond film, Skyfall, the February birthstone has retained its place in the coffers of the world’s most powerful and wealthy.
Perhaps their wealth and influence might have something to do with the stone itself? The Chinese practice of Feng Shui teaches that if amethyst is placed in the wealth corner of a home, it will increase the household’s prosperity. It’s said to benefit more than your bank balance though – amethyst is also believed to help bring calm and harmony to the home and family. Now, what better reason to introduce the February birthstone to your life in a time of year when our pockets and mental reserves are still rather empty after the excesses of the Christmas season!
Kim Rix, GG GIA – Gemstone Detective
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