February's Birthstone Amethyst, An Ancient Prize
February's birthstone, amethyst, is a stone rich in history and folklore. Amethyst is a variety of quartz and is found on several continents, the most notable being Siberian, African and South American, in that order and with a vast chasm between each. Siberia is to amethyst what Kashmir is to sapphire however, like Kashmir, is a defunct source. African gems, especially those from Zambia, have a dense, rich royal purple with red undertones. Packing color into colored gemstones is a value grading factor referred to as "saturation."
Prior to the 19th century, amethyst was once one of the four most prized gemstones in the world. Prized by royalty, Pope and Bishops, there are beautiful specimens in the British Crown Jewels. Catherine the Great prized amethyst rather than diamond. The discovery of huge deposits in Brazil undermined the value of amethyst around the world. While South America remains the most abundant source, it is the stones from Uruguay that are considered better quality.
Stories and tales abound of the ability of amethyst to prevent drunkenness no matter the amount. Amethyst was also thought to guard against illness, control evil thoughts, quicken intelligence and keep soldiers for harm.
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