A variety of vitreous quartz with purple, violet, or red-purple coloration, amethyst derives its name from the ancient Greek amethustos, meaning literally “not drunk” as if was believed to guard against drunkenness. Traditionally associated with purity and piety; amethyst has also always been favored by royalty as purple is considered a regal hue.
Found in most countries where granite rocks are exposed, amethyst occurs in alluvial deposits and geodes. Its coloration is principally due to traces of iron, and it is sometimes color-zoned due to twining or preferential absorption on the rhombehedral faces. Major commercial sources of amethyst are Brazil, where it occurs in geodes that are frequently human-sized; deep purple colors are found in Uruguay, and also Siberia and North America. Crystals from Brazilian and Uruguayan deposits are most often found as radiating masses, with individual crystals appearing as pyramids. Lower grade Brazilian and Uruguayan amethyst is frequently turned into citrine by heat treatment, which changes its color. Where both amethyst and citrine occur naturally in the same stone, the name ametrine is sometimes used.
Traditionally amethyst has along history as a gemstone. In the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, amethyst was highly valued and was used to create cylinder seals, engraved with a religious design and the owner's name. The engraving was transferred to legal documents in the form of clay tablets by rolling the cylinder over the tablets. The ancient Egyptians also valued amethyst, using it in much of their jewelry. Egyptian amethyst came principally from Nubia, once a province of Egypt.
In modern times, amethyst is both faceted and cut and it has a widespread use as a carving material. Its most valued shades are a deep, rich purple, and a deep purple with a reddish tinge.
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