Once upon a time, purple was where it was at with fashion. The dye known as Tyrian purple was produced by a predatory marine snail once known by the name “murex.” It was so expensive to produce that its use was strictly regulated and often reserved only for royalty or the aristocracy. In fact, after the sacking of Constantinople in 1204 AD, “no Byzantine emperor nor any Latin ruler in former Byzantine territories could muster the financial resources required for the pursuit of murex purple production. On the other hand, murex fishing and dyeing with genuine purple are attested for Egypt in the 10th to 13th centuries” (Jacoby 2004, g. 210).
So purple was a pretty big deal. Wearing purple was the ultimate expression of wealth and luxury.
Few other gemstones can muster the essence of purple as the February birthstone can. Rich and decadent, fine amethyst can have the depth of color found in a glass of shiraz. Reddish undertones and sparks of brilliance are hallmarks of the best material, but many people favor cooler, bluish undertones to the purple in their amethyst.
As quartz, amethyst is plentiful and wonderfully wearable in jewelry. It’s just as suitable for rings and bracelets as it is for earrings and pendants. It looks fantastic in both yellow and white metal, making it one of the most versatile gemstones out there. And its range of color spans from the scent of pale, gentle lavender to a bite of deep, sumptuous grape jelly.
Amethyst also grows to immense sizes, making bold statement pieces affordable compared to many other gems that may make cost prohibitive. But amethyst is also renowned for its ability to hold its color intensity even in smaller stones, making it great for accents in any kind of jewelry.
When compared to gems like fine purple sapphire or spinel, the price of even world-class amethyst is a bargain. As with all things, there are gradients of quality. Amethyst is no exception.
Color is the primary consideration. Amethyst is, by definition, purple, and so the nicer the purple, the more valuable the stone. It shouldn’t be so dark as to appear black or cause the brilliance to die off, but deeper purple always costs more than pastel purple.
The quality of cutting of amethyst is very important, as well. Overly dark stones may be cut with windows to make them appear lighter and bright, while pale stones may be very deep in order to strengthen what color is there. You’ll find lots of different shapes, but ovals and cushions are probably the most common.
Amethyst is also popular with custom cutters for its availability, low expense, and size potential. You’ll occasionally encounter especially creative, edgy, or even whimsical cutting of exceptional amethyst, and often to beautiful effect.
Of course, what appeals to you as the wearer of amethyst jewelry is the most important consideration. Always look for what you like, but it’s always nice to know where the value lies in any purchase.
Whether or not you’re a February baby, what shade of amethyst do you prefer in your jewelry?