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Amethyst in Ancient Greece

Eye-catching Amethyst has its story well and truly rooted in the culture of the Ancient Greeks and it's partly thanks to them that it is such an admired semi-precious gemstone today. Boasting a variety of violet shades and mythical qualities, the Amethyst had a real impact on the way the Greeks lived in ancient times and its power has spanned generations to remain almost as symbolic in the 21st century. We're exploring its role in the society of Ancient Greece to see just how popular it was and why!

What is Amethyst?

One of Amethyst's most charming characteristics is the array of colours found in every individual stone. It is a violet variety of quartz that is found in volcanic rocks in a number of countries around the world. As part of the most common family of minerals on the planet, this quartz stone is suitably hardwearing for use in jewellery, so it has been utilised as such for centuries. This includes Ancient Greece, where it developed some of its best-known metaphysical qualities.

Why was Amethyst so popular in Ancient Greece?

The very name of the gemstone derives from the Greek word 'amethystos', which means 'not drunken'. It was a common belief that the qualities of the stone protected people from intoxication, so drinking vessels were carved out of and decorated with Amethyst gemstones to fend off the effects of alcohol. Wine was, of course, a popular refreshment in Ancient Greece, so Amethyst in turn became a popular gemstone with those who wanted to drink more of it…

Its associations with wine in more modern times come from some invented myths involving Dionysus, god of intoxication, who poured wine over a young maiden named Amethyste after she was turned to white quartz to ward off his advances. His wine offering as a means of apology dyed the stone purple, thus cementing the name Amethyst for the stone we know today. Amethyst's protective qualities were also believed to extend beyond times of inebriation for the Ancient Greeks. As with many gemstones, such as Moonstone and Rose Quartz, cuts of Amethyst were thought to bring spiritual qualities of protection to those who owned them, so it was kept close to heart by members of that fascinating society.

What was Amethyst used for in Ancient Greece?

Gemstones in general were something of a luxury in olden times, so the societal status they represented was the driving force behind their desirability. Those who could afford it in Ancient Greece used it for a number of different causes.

Businessmen were believed to carry it on their person during working trips that were to involve negotiations, as the common thought was that it inspired the kind of peace of mind and diplomacy that were required to be successful in such dialogues. This extra encouragement for speakers was crucial in a time at which the art of persuasion was at its most prominent. The stone took many a form in these ancient times, from rugged stones cut from the rough to carefully carved items of jewellery that shone and shimmered like no other.

Where else was Amethyst popular?

The Ancient Egyptians also held Amethyst gemstones in similarly high regard. They carved it into amulets to fulfil its purposes of protection, both in terms of prayer and by holding it close to the body as one travelled.

Spiritual beliefs in the gemstone were also common in Tibet thanks to its ubiquity there - it was thought to be sacred to the Buddha, so prayer beads were made from it in a similar way to other societies around the world to facilitate religious activities. Its popularity in the likes of Brazil and Uruguay, too, were down to the fact that it has been present there for hundreds of years. In fact, much of the Amethyst we see today comes from this region of South America.

Amethyst at Monica Vinader

We source only the highest quality Amethyst at Monica Vinader, so you know you'll get a unique range of violet and purple shades in our stones.

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