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The Birthstone for February: Amethyst

Amethyst is the violet to reddish-purple variety of quartz. Its name is derived from the Greek word amethystos, which roughly translates to "remedy from intoxication" referring to a long lost belief that stones protected their wearers from becoming drunk after taking wine.

It's currently the most popular purple gemstone collected worldwide by jewelry owners and gemstone afficionados. Despite its current affordability on the markets however, Amethyst at one point was as rare and valuable as ruby, sapphire and emerald. It wasn't until the 18th century and the discovery of large amethyst geodes in the mines of Minas Gerais (Brazil), that the stone's supply skyrocketed internationally. This may have brought prices to more normal levels, but it also allowed this beautiful gem to reach every little corner of the world, lending its appreciative beauty to many different societies and cultures.

Amethyst is the designated gemstone for the entire month of February. Its deep and affectionate purplish hue is simply perfect for the incoming Valentines' day romance.

People from Metro Manila love using amethyst as a favored gemstone in their bracelets, beads and even rings. Some of the older texts on crystal beliefs and gemstone healing, suggest that amethyst is believed to increase nobility and spiritual awareness in a person. It's contact with the wearer's skin was also said to impart healing properties that cured general ailments and insomnia.

All quartz varieties, including amethyst and its cousin Citrine, exhibit piezoelectric properties. This means that when a crystal is subjected to a certain amount of force, movement or pressure, its structure will release a tiny charge of electric energy, and vice versa. This fact was made extremely useful in many various industries, such as watch-making / horologie, due to the precision of the movements generated through the unique property.

Amethyst for the longest time, was a revered gemstone associated with royalty and exclusivity. Its color was paralleled by no other in the range, not even by purple sapphire. This led many jewelers to use it in their masterpiece creations, even after the Brazilian sources were found. Crystals tend to come in clear, almost eye-clean qualities, which is perfect for designer-cuts and modified faceting. Amethyst is now quickly becoming a favorite of modern gem-cutting artisans for its pure clarity and deep saturations.

A word of caution for collectors though, it might not be wise to expose your amethyst stones to very bright sources of light and heat. Amethyst's color comes from a complicated atomic defect associated with the iron impurities in its crystal lattice. Some people who want to change amethyst to Citrine, heat their crystals in specific controlled environments with precise temperatures. The fact remains however, that some exposure to strong heat / light may cause the stone's dark purple to fade lighter over long periods of time.

(Below is a picture of Bolivian ametrine, a bicolored crystal variety of quartz that's created by partially heating raw amethyst. Photo credit to Kingstone Gems.)
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