Tuesday, February 2, 2021

History of the Amethyst: February's Birthstone


Blogger: Amber Schamel

Necklace from South Aribia dating 2,000 B.C.
From "Gems and Gemstones: Timeless Natural Beauty of the Mineral World"
by Lance Grande and Allison Augustyn, 2009, University of Chicago Press

Happy February, everyone! And happy birthday to all those born in this blistery month. Today we get to study one of my favorite birthstones, the amethyst. This gorgeous stone comes in beautiful hues of purple, a color that has been my favorite since I was old enough to name it.

The name amethyst comes from the Greek word 'amethystos' which can be translated "not drunken". The ancient Greeks believed that the gem would prevent intoxication, allowing someone to hold their liquor with a clear head, thus, they often used the stone for wine goblets.

 The earliest findings of amethyst jewelry dates back to 2000 B.C. The piece was engraved with a South Arabian script, believed to be from the 8th century. 

Mosaic depiction of god Bacchus
Public Domain

One legend of mythology, most famously told by French poet Remy Belleau, tells the tale of Bacchus, god of intoxication, pursuing a maiden by the name of Amethyste. The damsel refused his affections and prayed to the gods to remain chaste. The chaste goddess Diana answered her prayer by turning her into a white stone. Bacchus was so inspired and humbled by Amethyste's desire to remain chaste that he poured a goblet of wine upon the stone as an offering, turning the crystals purple. This legend, and variations of it, are interesting because it indicates that perhaps the ancients knew amethyst was a purple quartz.

Today, amethyst is not as rare as other gemstones we have studied, but it still manages to avoid being "common." It can be found in every part of the world, but it is still sought after for its unique, rich color. However, it wasn't always as plenteous as it is now. Up until the 18th century, amethyst was considered a "cardinal" gem, meaning its value was equal to the diamond and other most-precious gems. It wasn't until larger sources of it were discovered in Brazil that it became available to those of us who are not among the most wealthy. 

Carving of Roman Emperor Caracalla
in Amethyst.
Public Domain

Because of its color, amethyst was a favorite of royalty around the world. It was found in Anglo-Saxon graves, Egyptian tombs, on the crown jewels of monarchs, containing images of emperors, and more.

Clergy also loved this stone, and it was used in many religious relics for several reasons. The first is that the purple was thought to represent the deity of Christ. Second, the amethyst was one of the twelve stones in the Priestly breastplate in the Old Testament. Thirdly, the stone was said to be one of the stones representing the twelve apostles. Finally, since the stone indicated the meaning "Not drunken", they felt it represented Peter's words on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:15-16, "These are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel."

Some accounts say that Saint Valentine had a ring with Cupid carved into amethyst, which could be the reason it was chosen as the birthstone of February, the month of Valentine's day.

Great minds such as Leonardo De Vinci utilized the stone and believed it helped to quicken the mind and dissipate evil thoughts.

Today, amethyst is still in great demand and is used for all types of ornaments and jewelry such as rings, necklaces, rosary beads and more. The most important sources are still in Brazil.

For such a wintry month as February, a brilliant stone like Amethyst is a beautiful and welcome contrast. 


Two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".  

She lives in Colorado Springs near her favorite mountain, in a small "castle" with her prince charming. Between enjoying life as a new mom, and spinning stories out of soap bubbles, Amber loves to connect with readers and hang out on Goodreads with other bookish peoples.

Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at www.AmberSchamel.com/ and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!


  1. Thanks for the post! I love that carving...it must have been challenging. I don't know that I'd be brave enough to start chipping away at a gemstone!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Connie. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post.

      Haha, right? I would be too afraid to carve a gem. I barely have the bravery to experiment on wood. But I suppose if it was your craft, and you had carved many stones before it wouldn't be so intimidating.

  2. wow this is interesting. i am loving these posts about the different monthly gems thanks