Amethyst – Its Ancient History

Amethyst ovalAmethyst’s Story of Color and Majesty… From Royal Dye to Royal Jewelry

In the medieval city of Tyre, in ancient Phoenicia, a purple dye was derived from the mollusks found on its shores. In a legend, Heracles is thought to have given a piece of cloth dyed and stained in this purple color to the King of Phoenix who declared it to be the new Royal color. It became known as Tyrian Imperial purple.

Amethust robe rome

In stark contrast to its elegant end use, the dye was derived from the secretions of the rotting mollusks—with a smell so bad that only certain areas of the coast, far away from civilization, were used.

Just one Roman toga could take up to 10,000 mollusks to dye the robe. As a result, the production of rare and expensive purple dye was funded and controlled by royals, making it exclusive to leaders such as Alexander the Great and Roman Emperors. The penalty for wearing purple could include fines, property seizure and sometimes death. As Theopompus, a 4th century historian said, “Purple dye fetched its weight in silver at Colophon”.

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Birthstone Spotlight: February Amethyst

AmethystIn past blogs about birthstones we have been talking about gems that have their gemstone “label” in common with their mineral names. Gems like Garnet, Topaz, and Tourmaline are also the mineral name. In contrast, Amethyst is a color name for quartz, which is a mineral. Amethyst is the quartz in its purple color.

Quartz itself comes in at least several colors: citrine (yellow, orange and red), amethyst (varying shades of purple), ouro Verde (a chartreuse color), whisky quartz (brownish), smoky quartz (brownish gray), prasiolite (light bluish green), and Ametrine (naturally occurring mix of purple and yellowish gold. Some of the colors occur in nature and some are induced by man. Amethyst occurs naturally in nature.

If quartz itself were a birthstone we would be talking about all of the foregoing colors. But amethyst is plenty wonderful all by itself…

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