Amethyst is February’s birthstone. Some might wonder whether amethyst’s rich violet hue is appropriate for a month associated with red roses and candy hearts. But as it happens, the legend of Saint Valentine says that he wore an amethyst ring carved in the shape of cupid. Amethyst beads, with their grape purple tints, have been associated with love, fertility and romance long before pink Hallmark Cards took February’s center stage.
In fact, before the legend of Saint Valentine and his amethyst ring, there was the legend of Cleopatra and hers. Though Egyptian pharaohs generally adorned their tombs with amethysts, Cleopatra wore hers on a spectacular ring symbolizing love, light and life. Cleopatra was thought to be the incarnation of Isis by Egyptians, and some Romans thought she was the incarnation of Venus, Goddess of Love. With her amethyst ring, Cleopatra was said to have ensorcelled not one, but two powerful Roman generals: Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. Perhaps it is for this reason that Roman wives came to believe that amethyst beaded jewelry would assure their husband’s devotion.
Moreover, the story that gives February’s birthstone its name is a romantic tragedy. Dionysus, the Greek god of fertility and wine, fell in love with a maiden named Amethyst. When the maiden refused the drunken god’s affections, she was turned to quartz. But when the God saw the girl thus, he was overcome with love and sorrow. He wept upon her statue and his wine-purple tears stained the stone forever.
Thereafter, ancient people’s thought that amethyst had the power to prevent intoxication. Cups and goblets were carved from amethyst to protect against drunkenness. Amethyst’s reputation for being able to grant its wearer a clear head, promote feelings of love, and ensure devotion made it a popular stone amongst the early clergy. Amethyst beads adorned crucifixes worn by bishops and cardinals, but Catholicism wasn’t the only religion to prize February’s birthstone. Amethysts are also Buddha’s gemstone and treasured in Tibet.
Amethyst beaded jewelry can be as pale as lilac or as vibrant as lilac–versatile colors that compliment most skin tones. Moreover, February’s birthstone registers as a 7 on the Mohs hardness scale, which means that it’s durable. In fact, amethyst’s beauty and durability ensured that it was once amongst the most expensive gemstones, but due to large deposits found in the modern era, amethyst birthstones are now affordable on any budget. One drawback to February’s birthstone, however, is that daylight can change its color. Purple amethysts can be restored by means of radiation, but to preserve the intense royal color, it’s best not to wear amethyst beaded jewelry when sunbathing or otherwise exposed to intense light.
In modern times, February has become a month of sober reflection. We acknowledge the accomplishments of African Americans during February because it is Black History Month. We remember our great leaders on President’s Day, and we show our appreciation for the ones we love on St. Valentine’s Day. So too has amethyst become a modern symbol of clear-headedness and an open heart, which makes it an ideal birthstone for those born under the sign of Aquarius.