Gemmologist’s corner - Amethyst

Gemmologist’s corner - Amethyst

19/04/2021     Jewellery & Gems

This transparent variety of crystalline quartz is one of the most distinctive and recognisable gemstones ever used in jewellery. It has never really declined in popularity, probably because of its ready availability and its distinctive colour and, going back to earliest times, its strong association with royalty, spiritual pureness and even sobriety!

The Ancient Greeks believed it could prevent drunkenness, hence the root of the word from Greek: amethystos, literally "not intoxicating; not drunken,"

This story comes from Greek mythology; the god Bacchus/Dionysos, attempts to persuade the goddess Diana to spend a drunken evening with him, when she refuses, he turns to a nymph named Amethyst, who begs Diana to help her in keeping her chastity, Diana responds by turning Amethyst into a clear quartz crystal. Bacchus, drunken and angry about his rejections, pours his wine over the stone, tinting it purple, this served as a reminder to him of the consequences of his drunken behaviour! Hence Amethyst became known as the stone of sobriety.  


It is found in deposits all over the world, usually found in masses within cavities in its distinctive rhombohedral crystal form and can occur in various intensities of colour with the most sought after and expensive, being a deep purple that is referred to as “Deep Siberian.” This abundance has meant it has been used extensively throughout history and is often found cut into large stones. Although inexpensive and plentiful now, historically it often symbolised wealth and status, worn by merchants, powerful dignitaries and religious figures.

Advances in diamond cutting and stone polishing by the middle part of the 18th century resulted in large and colourful semi-precious stones – especially amethyst, being mounted in clusters with old cut diamonds or pear - shaped drops within Cannetille gold work, or often carved into seals, as can be seen in lot 389, a seal remounted as a necklace, these are all typical of Georgian designs.

The discovery of large deposits in Brazil in the early 19th Century led to widespread use of the Gem through the Victorian era, often cushion cut and set with pearls or a diamond surround or within an elaborate gold setting or just simply set within a gold frame. Some examples from this era are lot 181: a pendant set with a deep purple cushion cut stone framed within a surround of small old cut diamonds,  Lot 195 is a brooch, the amethyst set within a neo - classical gold scrolled surround, or lot 282, a pair of simple drop earrings mounted in gold.

Less valuable – but equally popular – amethyst continued to be used into the 20th Century, by the Edwardian era, pale Indian specimens were the gemstone of choice for simpler more streamlined designs, set apart from the heavier Georgian and Victorian jewellery.

Lot 111 is a classic example of a simple graduated amethyst necklace, set with seed pearls made in the Late 19th / Early 20th Century and Lot 71 is a very pretty Art Nouveau Amethyst and diamond fringe necklace, displaying the Art Nouveau flowing shapes indictive of the period.

The stones popularity continues through the Mid - 20th Century up to recent times, still cut in large stones and often with diamond accents, a variety of cuts can be seen, the rectangular cut becoming most popular, two nice Mid - Century examples of rectangular cut stones can be seen in lots 69 and 71, lot 249 is a pretty ring modelled a butterfly with heart shaped stones making up its wings or lot 426, an inexpensive nice chunky amethyst ring, with stepped tourmaline shoulders might take your fancy!

Lot 195 AN ANTIQUE AMETHYST SET BROOCH, the oval amethyst to a scrolled surround, suspending an amethyst drop, in yellow gold €400 - 500

Lot 181 AN ANTIQUE DIAMOND AND AMETHYST NECKLACE, the large cushion cut amethyst to an old cut diamond surround, mounted in 15ct gold. Estimated: weight of amethyst: 23.00 ct €1500 – 1800

Lot 282 A PAIR OF ANTIQUE AMETHYST DROP EARRINGS, each comprising two oval amethysts, mounted in 15ct gold €450 - 600

Lot 111: AN ANTIQUE AMETHYST AND PEARL NECKLACE, the graduating oval amethysts linked by pearl set chain, 15ct gold mounted, in vintage box €900 - 1200

Lot 147: AN ART NOUVEAU DIAMOND AND AMETHYST NECKLACE, comprising circular cabochon amethyst set between diamond and amethyst drops, mounted in 9ct gold. €450 - 650

Lot 69: A LARGE AMETHYST AND DIAMOND PENDANT, mounted in yellow gold, on chain. Estimated; weight of amethyst; 31.30 ct, total weight of diamonds; 0.24 ct €650 - 950

Lot 71 A PAIR OF AMETHYST AND DIAMOND EARRINGS, mounted in yellow gold, Estimated; weight of amethyst; 10.20 ct each, weight of diamonds; 0.24 ct, stamped 750 €600 - 900

Lot 249 AN AMETHYST AND DIAMOND NOVELTY RING, modelled as a butterfly, the amethyst wings to a diamond set body, mounted in yellow gold, size O €250 – 350

Lot 426 AN AMETHYST AND TOURMALINE RING, mounted in gold, size K – L €150 – 250






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