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Museum-quality piece of amethyst from South Africa

Amethyst is a form of the mineral quartz, and is a relatively common gemstone. Amethyst is usually purple, but can range in color from pale lavender to a very deep, reddish purple to a milky color to green. Deeper-colored amethysts are more highly valued.The name "amethyst" comes from the Greek A ("not") and METHUSTOS ("to intoxicate"), a reference to the belief that the stone protected its owner from drunkenness. Much fine amethyst comes from Russia, especially from near Mursinka in the Sverdlovsk region, where it occurs in drusy cavities in granite rocks. Many of the hollow agates of Brazil and Uruguay contain a crop of amethyst crystals in the interior. Many localities in India, the United States (Yellowstone National Park, Pennsylvania, Texas, North Carolina, Maine), Canada, South Korea, yield amethyst. The largest opencast amethyst vein in the world is in Maissau, Lower Austria.

Pendant "The Eye That Sees All" in amethyst by Hanna Ben-Nathan
click to enlarge

Amethyst was used as a gemstone by the ancient Egyptians and was largely employed in antiquity for intaglios. Beads of amethyst are found in Anglo-Saxon graves in England. Amethyst is a symbol of heavenly understanding, and of the pioneer in thought and action on the philosophical, religious, spiritual, and material planes. Ranking members of the Roman Catholic Church traditionally wear rings set with a large amethyst as part of their office.

The ancient Greeks and Romans wore amethyst and made drinking vessels of it in the belief that it would prevent intoxication. Supposedly, when a drunken Dionysus was pursuing a maiden called Amethystos, who refused his affections, she prayed to the gods to remain chaste. The goddess Artemis granted the prayer, transforming her into a white stone; humbled by Amethystos' desire to remain chaste, Dionysus poured wine over the stone she had become as an offering, dyeing the crystals purple. Variants of the story include that Dionysus, the god of intoxication, had been insulted by a mortal and swore revenge on the next mortal who crossed his path, creating fierce tigers to carry out his wish; the mortal turned out to be a beautiful young woman, Amethystos, who was on her way to pay tribute to Artemis. Her life is spared by Artemis, who transforms 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 stained the quartz purple.

Amethyst facts

1. A huge geode, or "amethyst-grotto", from near Santa Cruz in southern Brazil was exhibited at the Duesseldorf, Germany Exhibition of 1902.

2. The ideal amethyst grade is called "Deep Siberian" (or "Deep Russian") and has a primary purple hue of around 75-80 percent, 15-20 percent blue and (depending on the light source) red secondary hues.

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