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Beautiful Bejeweled Amethyst’s History as an Art Medium

Amethyst intaglio portrait of Julius Caesar, Roman, 50-40 B.C.E.

The February birthstone is amethyst. A form of non-fluorescing hard stone quartz whose typically purple shading comes from irradiation of iron or transition element impurities, amethyst was once considered one of the cardinal, or most valuable, gemstones. Occasionally exhibiting secondary shades of blue or red, the beautiful stone is highly popular among mineral collectors, crystal healers, art lovers, lapidaries. While not considered as valuable as it once was due to recent discoveries of large deposits of the mineral, amethyst often produces stunning jewelry.

Traditionally most carved gemstones in the west are a form of quartz, the carving techniques adopted for quartz also apply to amethyst. Amethyst deposits have been found on almost every continent and it’s availability was a key factor in it’s popularity as a carving medium of artisans in antiquity. Deposits have been found in Brazil, Uruguay, Austria, Russia, Zambia, and Korea, as well the eastern and southern areas of the United States, including Texas, North Carolina, and the Lake Superior Region.

Amethysts was carved and treasured by cultures such as those of Japan, Iran, Greece, Rome, Egypt, the Anglo-Saxons and others. Different cultures each put their own spin on the importance, meaning and value of the stone. It was highly treasured by Russian Empress Catherine who sent thousands of miners into the Ural mountains seeking the gemstone. In ancient Rome, the purple color of the gem was associated with the purple color reserved for the elite and the emperor. The medieval Catholic church’s bishops prized amethyst’s color. The ancient Egyptians worked the material into amulets for protection against harm. Moses the prophet is said to have described amethyst as representing the spirit of god. The ancient Greeks believed the stone offered protection from drunkenness. The Tibetans created rosaries from the stone and considered it sacred to Buddha. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote that amethyst quickened intelligence and dissipated evil thoughts. The Anglo-Saxons fashioned beads, while was used for intaglio.

In this article we present a visual tour of the different ways amethyst has been used in art, both ancient, antique, and modern.

Amethyst intaglio portrait of Julius Caesar, Roman, 50-40 B.C.E.

Amethyst intaglio portrait of Julius Caesar, Roman, 50-40 B.C.E.

Byzantine Jeweled Bracelet of gold, silver, pearls, amethyst, sapphire, glass, quartz

Byzantine Jeweled Bracelet of gold, silver, pearls, amethyst, sapphire, glass, quartz, 500-700 C.E.

1st Century Greek or Roman Amethyst Oval

1st Century Greek or Roman Amethyst Oval

Amethyst, Copper, Gold and Silver Frankish Disk Brooch, 550-650 C.E.

Frankish Disk Brooch, c. 550-650 B.C.E. with Amethyst Jewel

American Brooch by Theodore B. Starr, 1900, Amethyst, Gold, Garnet, Enamel

Amethyst, Garnet, Gold and Enamel Brooch by Theodore B. Starr, American, 1900

Egyptian Amethyst Scarab, Middle Kingdom, 1981-1950 B.C.E.

Egyptian Amethyst Scarab, Middle Kingdom, ca. 1981–1950 B.C. The scarab beetle was a potent symbol of creation and regeneration among the ancient Egyptians.

Chinese Amethyst Qing Dynasty Seal, Late 19th-early 20th Century

Chinese Qing Dynasty Amethyst , Late 19th – Early 20th Century

Chinese Qing Dynasty Snuff Bottle of White, Green, and Brown Jadeite with Amethyst Quartz Stopper 1736-95

Chinese Qing Dynasty Snuff Bottle of White, Green and Brown Jadeite with Amethyst Stopper, Qianlong Period (1736-1795)

Spanish Clip Earrings, mid-19ths Century, Gold, Metal and Amethyst

Mid-19th Century Avant-Garde Spanish Clip Earrings, Amethyst, Silver, Metal

We may not have antique carvings, but you can check out our lovely collection of amethyst for sale.