Passion for purple

Continuing my admittedly ad hoc series on birthstones, here’s the lowdown on the gemstone for February. Amethyst – who doesn’t love it? It’s got to be one of the most popular semi-precious gems…think of those gorgeous purple hues from the lightest of lilacs to deepest, darkest purple that’s just a shade off black. Mmmmm.
So what can I tell you about amethyst?
Well, amethyst is usually a transparent type of quartz – purple quartz, naturally. It’s also found in opaque forms, sometimes tinged with white patches or areas. Most of it comes from Brazil these days, but back in her day Catherine the Great was rather fond of the amethysts found in Russia’s Ural mountains. Some also comes from India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Mexico and even parts of Canada.
 In terms of hardness, amethyst scores a seven (on the Mohs hardness scale, incase you were wondering) – that compares with a perfect 10 score for diamond, the hardest gemstone. So it’s reasonably hard-wearing – again, another reason it’s so popular.
Okay, enough with the educational stuff. The colour purple, as you may already know, is associated with royalty (perhaps because purple dye used to be incredibly rare, with only very rich people being able to afford purple clothing). Well amethyst also has a history of being used in royal jewellery such as crowns – apparently there’s a huge one in the British Crown Jewels.

The Ancient Greeks, bless them, thought amethyst had special powers, including the ability to protect them against getting drunk (word has it that they used to drink alcohol from amethyst goblets, and that used to stop them getting drunk – yeah, right, that’s going to work!). In fact, the name amethyst comes from the Greek ‘amethystos’, which means sober.
So for all you lovely New Agey people out there, amethyst has various properties. It’s thought to help soothe the person wearing it and help balance your emotions (or should that be help you balance when you’ve had too much to drink?). Some crystal therapy devotees also say it has protective powers and that it strengthens love bonds (so give some to your sweetheart).
Want to know what I think? Wearing amethyst makes you feel great in the way that wearing a fabulous shade of lipstick does – well, that’s my take on the matter anyway.

Next month: aquamarine (one of my all-time favourites).