February is a short month but its birthstone, the amethyst, has a long and interesting history including some folklore about being associated with the “god of wine.” Learn more about February’s stone, which many believe promotes courage, inner strength, peace and balance.
Amethyst is a type of quartz that comes in shades of purple. These shades can range from a very light lavender to a deep, dark royal purple color. Some stones contain hints of gray, pink or red, and others may have layers or variable colors.
While quartz is the second most abundant mineral found on earth, amethysts aren’t as common. The color comes from radiation, trace elements, and iron impurities. This stone is found all over the world, often in geodes or in cavities formed in granitic rocks. Prior to the 19th century, Russia was the world’s biggest source of amethysts—but then large deposits were found in Brazil. Today, South America, Africa, and particularly Brazil, are the most important suppliers of these stones.
This birthstone’s name has a bit of historical significance to it. “Amethyst” comes from one of two ancient Greek words: “methustos,” which means “intoxicated,” or “amethystos,” which means “not intoxicated” (a- representing “not” in Greek). In ancient times, the Greeks associated this stone with Bacchus, who was the god of wine. Thus, it was believed wearing amethyst could prevent drunkenness. People also believed these stones would keep the wearer quick-witted and clear of mind in both business and battle.
While some stones—like turquoise, for example—have an extensive history with deep roots, the history behind amethyst might be even older. In France, it’s been discovered that prehistoric humans dating back 25,000 years used amethyst as a decoration. It’s also been found among Neolithic human remains.
More recently, it’s been said that Cleopatra’s signet ring was an amethyst engraved with the Persian deity Mithras. There are historical accounts of Saint Valentine possessing an amethyst ring carved to look like Cupid. This stone is also associated with royalty in large part because of the color—which British royals wore on their regalia during the Middle Ages.
In the 1700s, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, had something of a love affair with the amethyst. She absolutely loved the gem and was known for decking herself in amethyst necklaces, earrings, and various ornaments.
In the last century, amethysts enjoyed the limelight yet again when famed jewelry connoisseur Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, wore a gorgeous Cartier-designed bib-style amethyst and turquoise necklace to a Versailles gala in 1953.
Amethyst Traditions and Folklore
- Amethysts have been reported to aid in the reduction of insomnia, arthritis, circulatory problems, and chronic pain.
- These stones are thought to promote courage, inner strength, peace, and balance.
- Amethysts are used to celebrate both the 6th and 17th years of marriage.
- Leonardo da Vinci claimed amethyst quickens intelligence and rids one of evil thoughts.
- During the Renaissance, Europeans thought amethysts calmed impassioned lovers.
- Early Egyptians believed amethysts possessed powers of goodness and would place them in the tombs of pharaohs.
- In the Middle Ages, amethyst was used as medication for sleep, to sharpen the intellect, and to protect against sorcery.
- Arabian mythology holds that amethysts protect the wearer from bad dreams and from gout.
- In feng shui, amethyst can be used to clear a space of negative energy and to protect the space from harm.
Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental, and green living topics.