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BIRTHSTONES: The Really Weird History of Amethyst

Just like last month with the garnets, this month my inbox is again full of everyone telling me that Amethyst is the February birthstone.  Also AGAIN, this is where the info stops!  Why is it the birthstone for February?  Where did its strange name come from?  I have questions!!!

Let's first back alllll the way up to how this gorgeous purple gemstone was named.  The lore surrounding is is fantastic!

Enter Bacchus, the god of wine from Greco-Roman mythology.  Bacchus was offended by Diana - the huntress - because she apparently was so not interested in his many romantic advances.  Bacchus wasn't pleased by this, so he drank cup after cup of wine and came up with a revenge plan.  He would command his tigers to attack the next maiden walking through the woods, then Diana would see how serious he was, and might capitulate!  It just so happens, the next maiden to cross his path was Amethyst, who was actually on her way to worship at Diana's shrine.  Bacchus, in all his drunken anger, shamelessly set the tigers on Amethyst!  She had only a moment to send out a plea to Diana to save her, and Diana only had half that moment to do so.  She knew she didn't have time before the tigers reached Amethyst to fight them off, so she quickly turned Amethyst into into a crystal clear, sparkling quartz.

Bacchus stared at his tigers attacking the now quartzified Amethyst.  He realized how wrong his actions were - it was Diana he was mad at, not Amethyst!  In a rare bout of remorse, he poured all his remaining wine over the quartz statue of Amethyst, annointing her purple with the last drops of the best red wine in the land.

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The word, or name in this case, Amethyst, comes from the Greek word "amethystos", meaning "not drunk".  Because of this story, Romans used amethyst cups for wine, because they believed it would keep them from drunkenness!

Even the reason why Amethyst is connected to the month of February can be traced back to those imaginative Romans.  February was a time to practice rituals of cleaning sin and paying homage to the undead.  Since Amethyst kept one from drunkenness and other overindulgent revelries, the bishops and priests who guided these activities would wear the gemstone in their rings and on pendants.

 

(Roman Emperor Caracalla)

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Now that our burning questions have been answered, let's just take a moment to appreciate how gorgeous Amethyst is in nature.  It's rare that a gemstone this beautiful is just so ubiquitous.

(Crystal Castle in Australia)

(specimens from Brazil)

 



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