Updated: Apr 13
There is just so much to say about Amethyst, this blog barely scratches the surface of this noble, and occasionally romanticised quartz variety, that is eternally popular.
Amethyst is rich in history, myth and legend and evidence of its use dates back thousands of years, with links to many different ancient cultures. It has been found in many places world wide at various times and comes in a variety of formations, such as clusters, geodes, druses, prismatic, skeletal, sceptres and many more..!
A valuable source of amethyst dating back to the Middle Kingdom during 2000c BCE came from Wadi el-Hudi in the Eastern Desert of Egypt. This oldest known mine was visited by a team of archaeologists during the 1900s, and was dated back to the Middle Kingdom following studies of the architecture, and discoveries of many inscriptions and pottery pieces. Further archaeological findings in 2014 of an abundance of artifacts and inscriptions revealed significant new evidence about the social and political history of Ancient Egypt. Evidence indicates that amethyst was at that time referred to as hesmen.
There is evidence of other amethyst mining sites in Egypt during that period, but they were probably of a smaller production scale.
Amethyst in Egypt became increasingly popular due to it’s availability at that time and evidence shows that it was used in trade exchanges between nations. Egyptian amethyst beads, scarabs and amulets have been found in other countries, including Crete, Syria, and Italy. Pliny The Elder in his Naturalis Historia mentions the production of amethyst in Egypt.
Ancient Egyptians are believed to have worn scarab amulets carved out of amethyst as a protective talisman. The amulets symbolised the sun, resurrection, transformation and protection, and represented rebirth and the eternal renewal of life.
Egyptian warriors are said to have worn amethyst sygnet rings carved with a scarab symbol in the belief that the magical powers would enhance their health, strength and virility, and offer them protection and victory in battle.
Sleeping children would be offered protection by an amethyst bead, together with other objects.
Amethyst jewellery has been discovered in Egyptian tombs where the gemstone has been used in a funerary context. Beads with and without figures on, amulet figures and scarabs have been found and documented. Figures of hawks, baboons, hippos and other animals were found carved on to amethyst. These would have had symbolic connections, each animal representing a particular belief. Animals in mythology were believed to represent the gatekeepers of the portals between worlds.
A Stone of Mourning
Amethyst has long been recognised as a stone of mourning as it is believed to offer comfort at a time of grief and sadness. Incorporating a deceased person’s hair of a loved one into a piece of jewellery was highly fashionable during the Georgian and Victorian periods in Britain and often seen as a sign of social status.
Stone of Royalty and Religion
Historically, amethyst has been a stone of royalty due to the uniqueness of it’s colour. At one time it was considered extremely valuable, equal to diamond, ruby, emerald and sapphire. However, it became much more common and it’s value dropped when discoveries of large deposits were made in Brazil and other parts of the world. Amethyst can be found in royal collections all over the world, some of these dating back thousands of years.
In the Bible (Exodus 28:19) we discover that amethyst was used on the breastplate of the High Priest. The amethyst was the ninth stone of twelve. Each stone represented one of the the twelve tribes of Israel. The ninth was the Tribe of Issachar.
In Revelation 21:20 we read that the wall of the New Jerusalem was inlaid with twelve gemstones. The twelfth gemstone used was amethyst. Each stone was said to have represented one of the twelve apostles.
Intricately engraved gems made for finger rings and pendants have been found dating back to 5000 years ago. The tradition started in ancient Mesopotamia and spread through Minoan and mycenaean Greece, Egypt and Persia. The carvings included mythological figures, animal studies, and portraits for owner identification. Many of them were made to be used as personal seals in order to validate legal documents, just as a signature does now. They became objects of fashion and status, and were a luxury art form. Some would be carved with gods or goddesses with symbolic objects, and scenes that tell a story.
Geology and Mineralogy
Amethyst is defined by its structure, content and colour. It predominately forms in Igneous rock, but can also form in sedimentary and metamorphic conditions. It has a hardness of seven on the MOHs scale, has a vitreous lustre, and can be transparent, translucent, or milky. Amethyst has no clear cleavage plane, which means it does not break apart in any specific pattern. It is a brittle material and fractures in a conchoidal pattern, which resembles the shell of a scallop.
Amethyst has a trigonal geometric crystal system with an hexagonal habit. The trigonal structure dictates the shape and form of the amethyst’s growth. It will always have six sides meeting together at a terminated point. Due to the trigonal system of amethyst having an hexagonal habit, the outside shows a different structure to that on the inside.
Amethyst has a unique growth structure that differs from other quartz. It is this structure that allows the iron to penetrate the quartz, thus creating the illustrious violet/purple colours. Unlike other quartz, which forms in either a right or left handed crystal lattice, amethyst is made up of alternate layers of right handed and left handed quartz. The iron has just enough room to enter the growing quartz between the layers. This growth pattern is known as Airy’s Spiral, named after English astronomer, Sir George Biddell Airy, who made the discovery.
Made up of the chemical elements silicon dioxide and iron oxide amethyst is classed as a framework silicate.
Silicon Dioxide - SiO2
A natural compound made up of silicon (Si) and oxygen (O2), and the most common oxide on earth. It is the main component of most sand. As well as being present in earth, silicon dioxide is found in water, plants and animals. It is also present in human body tissues. A metalloid mineral element, Silicon Dioxide is a significant stabiliser, transforming conditions from unstable to stable.
Oxides are chemical compounds and occur when oxygen combines with another element. Oxides are acid formers. Oxides provide a transformative energy, turning one thing in to another and create a stable state.
Iron - FEO4
Iron is the fourth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and is a major component of Earth’s core. It is reddish brown in colour. Iron is an essential mineral for the human body as it helps to transport oxygen throughout the body. The human body contains on average, 4.5gms, with over half being present as haemoglobin, and the rest stored in the liver, spleen and bone marrow.
Tectosilicates - from the Greek, meaning ‘building’, framework silicates make up 75% of the Earth’s crust. With a ratio of 1:2 silicon to oxygen the framework silicate has a three dimensional lattice system of silicate tetrahedrons. The three dimensional framework offers the ability to absorb and reflect due to its filtering effect.
Amethyst grows in many different shades of violet to purple. This depends upon the rock formation and location, and the amount of iron content. After a long growth process of crystallisation, gamma rays from radioactive minerals in the surrounding rock irradiate the iron content and produce a variety of violet/purple colours. Colour zoning often occurs with the most intensity present near the termination, reflecting the hexagonal habit.
Amethyst can form in a variety of growth habits. This will depend on the host rock and growth conditions, such as temperature, pressure, gasses, space and time. Druzy clusters tend to grow in low heat, prismatic habits will grow in higher temperatures.
Amethyst has the ability to heal a variety of dis-ease on the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual level. It can be used within a variety of healing techniques to benefit well-being, including stone layouts, visualisations, meditations, grids and essences. It can be worn in jewellery, and placed around the home and workplace.
Formation, structure, content and colour largely influences these healing qualities. This is known as the ‘Doctrine of Signatures’. Therefore, if we consider the above geology and mineralogy, we can determine that amethyst can be stabilising, transforming, absorbing, reflective and filtering. It can promote calm, alleviating anxiety and stress, reduce fever, heat and pain, encourage oxygen to flow, supplying energy to body cells, tissues and organs, and stimulate vitality and energy levels. Amethyst can be detoxifying and helps to restore the energy system to its natural rhythmic flow, creating an overall harmony.
If amethyst occurs in igneous rock the energetic healing effect may support the ability to cope with new situations, help us to connect to our inner forces, support spiritual growth and development, and support recovery and healing from illness.
When its found in sedimentary rock it may help to reshape thinking and behaviours, and develop new strategies. It can help us to connect, adapt and harmonise with the environment, support us to let go of what no longer serves us, and enable new visions.
Metamorphic growth supports transformation of the inner self.
The trigonal lattice system represents simplicity. It is sturdy, stable and solid, aiding strength and empowerment. The internal angle