Many extravagant and beautiful pieces of antique jewellery have been crafted using the amethyst. Its stark and unique purple colouration, hardiness and lustrous brightness has made it consistently popular over many hundreds of years, and it has inspired master craftsmen to work it into thousands of examples of wearable art.
Amethyst form natural crystals deep within the earth and have a surprising amount of variety in both colour and size. The most highly prized stones show a deep purple colouration and a lack of visible flaws which allow light to flow through the stone. Lapidaries, whose expertise is employed to cut precious stones, are able to employ a stunning array of different shapes that accentuate the properties of each individual stone and prepare them for inclusion in a wide variety of pieces.
So, what makes amethyst jewellery so popular?
Getting to Know the Amethyst
Amethyst is the purple variety of quartz, an extremely varied mineral which forms into agate(LINK), tigers eye(LINK), onyx(LINK), carnelian(LINK) and amethyst’s sister-stone citrine(LINK). It is extremely hard-wearing, which makes it ideal for inclusion in pieces of jewellery, and ensures that antique jewellery containing amethysts can retain their beauty over many generations.
The so-called “ideal grade” of amethyst is a royal purple colour, often named “Deep Siberian” after the area they were historically found in the greatest concentration. Paler stones, more similar to lilac or a lavender shade, were historically less prized, but some truly remarkable examples exist. There are also beautiful examples of banded amethyst where seams of white or transparent quartz run through, creating a beautiful variety of patterns.
Some precious stones, such as sapphire(LINK) can be heat treated to improve their colour, however this is not possible with amethyst. When exposed to extremes of heat amethyst actually changes and forms the honey-coloured stone citrine(LINK). Where there has been a nearby heat source beneath the earth examples can be found where both stone colours exist in a single crystal. These wonderful two-tone specimens are known as ametrine.
History and Myth
The name “amethyst” comes from the Greek word amethystos which means “not drunk”, and stems from the ancient belief that the stone could protect a wearer from the effects of intoxication. Ancient people crafted drinking vessels from the stone to guard against drunkenness, and this supposed trait led to the belief that the stone could inspire clarity of thought and protect against confusion.
A more recent myth associated the stone with the Greek god of wine and merriment Dionysus, who later became known by the Romans as Bacchus. There are many versions of the story, but in a popular retelling it was said that the god became enamoured with a mortal woman named Amethyst, who prayed to the goddess Diana to remain chaste. Diana answered the woman’s prayers by transforming her into a white stone, and when Dionysus found her in this state he wept tears of wine that turned the stone purple and granted its sobering effects.
The amethyst is sacred in many eastern religions, with both prayer beads and depictions of the Buddha carved from it. In the west the colour purple was associated with royalty, and amethysts were worked into the crown jewels of many monarchs.
Antique Amethyst Jewellery
Historically amethyst was classified as one of the five cardinal gemstones, whose value surpassed all others. This placed the stone on an equal footing to diamond, sapphire, ruby and emerald, and craftsmen from ages past treated the stone accordingly. It was included in magnificent brooches and pendants as well as rings and bracelets. Often it was paired with diamonds to increase the brightness of a piece, and always it was set into precious silver or gold with beautiful engravings and delicate detail.
In recent history larger deposits of amethyst have been found, which has decreased its value in its raw form, however antique amethyst was worked with such skill that this is not the case with older pieces. Antique amethyst jewellery retains much of its value due to the skill and care taken working with the stone, and pieces crafted in the Georgian(LINK), Victorian(LINK) and Edwardian(LINK) eras are still highly prized by collectors today.
At Antique Jewellery Online(LINK) we have spent many years seeking out the most beautiful pieces of antique amethyst jewellery(LINK) that we could find. Our skilled staff take great pride in providing the most wondrous items to our customers and we are proud of each and every piece that we sell.