Amethyst is a common variety of quartz, but clear, large amethysts that can be made into gemstones are relatively rare. The name is derived from the ancient Greek term “amethystos”, which means “not intoxicated”. This is related to the belief that wearing amethysts should help against the intoxicating effects of wine. One possible explanation is that diluted red wine has a similar color to amethysts.
Amethysts are found in nature in color variations from very light, pale pink to dark purple. The stronger and more purple the color, the more valuable the stones are. The color is created by flaws in the crystal lattice, and the color distribution is usually irregular. Amethysts of other colors, such as yellow, green or brown, are produced only by firing. Amethysts are very popular gemstones, cut in different faceted shapes or as cabochons. They are found in boulder and sand deposits or as druses. In druses, the crystals have formed in a cavity surrounded by a layer of chalcedony. The largest of these druses can grow several meters high. The most beautiful and clearest amethysts are currently found in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Namibia, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Morocco. There are numerous sites in Europe, too, the largest occurrence, for example, is in the Lower Austrian town of Maissau, but there are also sites in Germany (Erzgebirge) as well as in Finland. Under the influence of UV radiation, for example from sunlight, amethysts lose their color and become colorless quartz. They also lose their color when fired at 400 degrees Celsius or more, which is exploited in specific treatments: Citrins with a light yellow coloration are produced from amethysts by firing.
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