Happy birthday, February babies! Your birthstone is Amethyst, a violet variety of quartz. Amethyst is a semiprecious stone and is the traditional birthstone for February. Amethyst owes its violet color to irradiation, iron impurities, and the presence of trace elements. Amethyst occurs in primary hues from a light pinkish violet to a deep purple. Amethyst may exhibit one or both secondary hues, red and blue. (Green quartz is sometimes incorrectly called green amethyst, which is a misnomer and not an appropriate name for the material, the proper terminology being prasiolite).
The Greek word “amethystos” may be translated as “not drunken”, from Greek a-, “not” + methustos, “intoxicated”. Amethyst was considered to be a strong antidote against drunkenness, which is why wine goblets were often carved from it. In his poem “L’Amethyste, ou les Amours de Bacchus et d’Amethyste” (Amethyst or the loves of Bacchus and Amethyste), the French poet Remy Belleau (1528–1577) invented a myth in which Bacchus, the god of intoxication, of wine, and grapes was pursuing a maiden named Amethyste, who refused his affections. Amethyste prayed to the gods to remain chaste, a prayer which the chaste goddess Diana answered, transforming her into a white stone. Humbled by Amethyste’s desire to remain chaste, Bacchus poured wine over the stone as an offering, dyeing the crystals purple.
It was used as a gemstone by the ancient Egyptians and was largely employed in antiquity for intaglio engraved gems. Beads of amethyst were found in Anglo-Saxon graves in England, and Medieval European soldiers wore amethyst amulets as protection in battle in the belief that amethysts heal people and keep them cool-headed. Some Tibetans consider amethyst sacred to the Buddha and make prayer beads from it. Purple has long been considered a royal color, so it is not surprising that amethyst has been so much in demand throughout history. Fine amethysts are featured in the British Crown Jewels and were also a favorite of Catherine the Great and Egyptian royalty. In the Old World, amethyst was considered one of the Cardinal gems, in that it was one of the five gemstones considered precious above all others. Great thinkers like Leonardo da Vinci believed that amethyst could dissipate evil thoughts and quicken the intelligence. Anglican bishops wear an episcopal ring often set with an amethyst, an allusion to the description of the Apostles as “not drunk” at Pentecost in the Bible.
There is an excellent article on the history of Amethyst online at the Thoughts on Jewelry blog at https://thoughtsonjewelry.wordpress.com/2012/08/18/history-of-amethyst/ . Thanks and credit to Wikipedia.com and AGTA for information used in this article.