Amethyst

* Amethyst is a semi-precious stone that has long been popular in jewelry and has often been associated with royalty and with the Catholic church.  A variety of quartz, it is identifiable by its distinctive violet or deep purple color. It is generally considered the most desirable type of quartz.

* The ideal grade of amethyst is referred to as ‘Deep Siberian’ or ‘Deep Russian’ and has a purple hue of around 75% to 80 % and blue and red secondary hues of around 15.-20 %. Although amethyst is a relatively common stone, an example of true ‘Deep Siberian’ is actually extremely rare. An example of ‘Deep Siberian’ can be seen in this amazing ring from the Victorian and Albert Museum below.

V&A Museum Amethyst Ring 1800-1869 Europe

V&A Museum Amethyst Ring 1800-1869 Europe

* Pale lilac amethyst with blue undertones is referred to as ‘Rose de France’.

Rose de France Amethyst

Rose de France Amethyst

* ‘Green amethyst’ is a misnomer. Although this is also quartz, it is not a type of amethyst and should be called instead ‘Prasiolite’, ‘Vermarine’ or ‘Lime Citrine’. Prasiolite is not found in antique jewelry.

* Amethyst is the birthstone for February.

* Synthetic amethyst is common and hard to distinguish from real amethyst.  Generally speaking, amethyst is not valuable enough to merit thorough testing, but if required it can be distinguished with gemological testing.  One indicator of synthetic amethyst for the lay person, however, is if the amethyst appears too perfect and even in color, as well as being in a contemporary setting, then it is likely to be synthetic. Amethyst was first synthesized for use in jewelry around 1970.

* Other materials and stones which can be confused with amethyst are: purple sapphire, alexandrite, foiled rock crystal, scapolite, paste and glass.

* Amethyst was considered very valuable up until the 18th century when vast deposits in Brazil were discovered and lowered the value.  Prior to around 1820, it was often set along side precious stones such as diamond, sapphire, emerald and ruby (the ‘cardinal’ stones).  It was also often foiled and set in gold. It can often be found in Georgian mourning rings, buckles and a variety of other jewelry types worn by the upper classes of the period.

Mourning Ring, England 1787. Enamelled gold set with rose-cut diamonds, rubies, emeralds and amethysts V&A Museum

Mourning Ring, England 1787.
Enamelled gold set with rose-cut diamonds, rubies, emeralds and amethysts
V&A Museum

* There are also some fine examples of amethyst being used in carved cameos throughout the jewelry eras.

Gold pendant set with an amethyst cameo and hung with pearls. Europe 1600-1650 V&A Museum

Gold pendant set with an amethyst cameo and hung with pearls. Europe 1600-1650 V&A Museum

* The Victorians loved amethyst and often used it in acrostic jewelry, to symbolize the letter ‘A’.

Victorian 'Regard' Ring, circa 1880.

Victorian ‘Regard’ Ring, circa 1880.

* The Victorians also wore amethyst in a variety of other ways, often set in gold.

Mid-Victorian Amethyst 18 karat gold necklace Lang's Antique & Estate Jewelry

Mid-Victorian Amethyst 18 karat gold necklace
Lang’s Antique & Estate Jewelry

* The jewelry designers of the English Arts & Craft design movement, artistically unrestrained by the perceived value of the materials they used, were fond of using amethyst.

1900 England Enamel plaque in gold and silver-gilt surround, with pendant amethysts and an opal Edith Brearey Dawson V&A Museum

1900 England
Enamel plaque in gold and silver-gilt surround, with pendant amethysts and an opal
Edith Brearey Dawson
V&A Museum

* In the Art Deco era, amethyst was very popular and was often set in white gold, platinum or silver and can even be found set with diamonds.  (Please also see my previous post about Art Deco carved gemstones).

Art Deco Cabochon Amethyst and Diamond Drop Necklace, Lang's Antiques

Art Deco Cabochon Amethyst and Diamond Drop Necklace, Lang’s Antiques

* Amethyst has remained consistently popular as a jewelry material throughout the jewelry eras and, although not considered highly valuable, it is a very eye-catching and beautiful material.

 

Sources / Further reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amethyst

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_de_france

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Amethyst

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/fine-jewelry/amethyst

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prasiolite

http://epubl.ltu.se/1404-5494/2008/021/LTU-HIP-EX-08021-SE.pdf

http://www.thefrenchblue.com/rww_blog/2010/09/02/siberian-amethyst-another-myth-of-the-gem-trade/

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