February Birthstone: The Amethyst
“The February born shall find
Sincerity and peace of mind,
Freedom from passion and from care,
If they, the amethyst will wear.”
The February birthstone, deeply steeped in history and lore, is also the traditional seventeenth anniversary gift. It is traditionally used in engagement and anniversary rings because it is said to strengthen love between two people.
Because the amethyst is linked to addiction and gives the wearer the power to overcome any adversity it is often referred to as the “sobriety stone.”This symbol of protection reminds the wearer, and others, of the addict’s struggle with an alcohol addiction. The stone was sacred to Dionysus, the god of wine and overindulgence.
The amethyst, part of the quartz family, comes in any shade you can imagine, from the palest lavender to a rosy mauve to a deep plum that is nearly as dark as black.
It’s not clear why amethysts are purple. Some scientists believe this color is due to the gem’s iron oxide content, while others attribute the color to manganese or hydrocarbons. Some amethyst crystals, particularly those from Brazil or Uruguay, can become yellowish-brown when heated and are then sold as citrine.
The deciding factor in determining the amethyst’s value is its intensity and saturation of color—all other factors (size, clarity, etc.) being equal, the darker the stone, the more valuable it is.
The name amethyst originates from the Greek words amethystos or amethustos, meaning “not drunken” or “remedy against drunkenness.” The ancients believed that drinking wine from an amethyst cup—or, unfortunately, grinding amethyst into powder and adding it to wine—helped maintain sobriety.
The amethyst’s history extends back 25,000 years, where, in France, it was used as a decorative stone by prehistoric humans. It has also been found among the remains of Neolithic man,++++ and it’s reputed that the signet ring worn by Cleopatra was an amethyst, engraved with the figure of Mithras, a Persian deity symbolizing the Divine Idea, Source of Light and Life.
It is also said to be the stone of Saint Valentine, who wore an amethyst engraved with the figure of his assistant, Cupid.
The original symbolic meaning of the color purple was for penitence and mourning. It’s wealth, power, and royalty symbolism grew from the extreme cost of producing a true purple dye.
Due to its purple color amethysts were incorporated into the jewelry and breastplates that were part of a king’s armor. Amethysts have been found everywhere from the royal tombs of Egyptian pharaohs to the graves of European soldiers.
The following is a story from Greco-Roman mythology, as quoted from Birthstones by Willard Heaps:
Bacchus, the god of wine in classical mythology, was offended by Diana the huntress. Determined on revenge, he declared that the first person he met as he went through the forest would be eaten by his tigers. As it happened, the first person to cross his path was the beautiful maiden Amethyst on her way to worship at the shrine of Diana. In terror, she called upon the goddess to save her, and before his eyes, Bacchus observed the maiden changed to a pure white, sparkling image of stone. Realizing his guilt and repenting his cruelty, Bacchus poured grape wine over her, thus giving the stone the exquisite violet hue of the amethyst.
A variation on the myth comes from ancient Greece. Dionysus was pursuing a mortal woman named Amethystas. Amethystas, well aware that she was being pursued by a god known for his virility, prayed to the goddess Artemis, a virgin goddess. Artemis, taking pity on the girl who wished to keep her chastity, turned her into stone. Dionysus, seeing that the girl of his affections was now a block of quartz crystal wept tears of wine over her, which turned the stone purple.
These legends, with their connection to Baccus, logically connected non-intoxication beliefs to the amethyst: drinking wine from an amethyst cup will prevent drunkenness and wearing amethyst will prevent the wearer from becoming drunk or being poisoned.
Legends also credit the amethyst with aiding to the brave because it was believed to protect Medieval soldiers in battle by helping them keep a cool head during war and by speeding up the healing from injuries.
The amethyst is also credited with controlling evil thoughts, making wearers more amiable and gentle than they would be otherwise, helping hunters capture animals and making the owner shrewd in business matters.
The belief of amethyst’s power to keep the mind pure and stable was also held by the Hindus and Buddhists. Mala beads, thought to help aid in meditation, were often made of amethyst.
Because it symbolizes piety and spirituality, the amethyst is found in church crosses and ceremonies. Bishops often wore an amethyst ring to show their station within the church.
During the Middle Ages the amethyst was used as medication. Its healing properties were not only associated with addiction’s withdrawal symptoms but with headaches, insomnia, arthritis, pain relief, circulatory system issues and general healing.
It was believed to sharpen intellect, to protect the wearer from sorcery, and to bring victory in battle. In Arabian mythology, the amethyst was supposed to protect the wearer from bad dreams and gout.
Considered to be the birth stone of Aquarius (the Water Bearer), the amethyst symbolizes stability, peace, balance, courage, inner strength, sincerity and a calm disposition.
Amethysts were also used as tools to imprint clay tablets.
Although the two main sources of amethyst are Brazil and Zambia, it is also found in Uruguay, Russia, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Canada, Madagascar, Namibia, and the United States state of Arizona.
One of the largest cut amethysts in the world is 343 carats and is housed at the National History Museum in London.
Alternative stones for February are the garnet, jasper, and moonstone.
SOURCES: Multiple sources were used for this post. If you need a source reference, contact me through the comment box at the end of this post.