In Tibet, amethyst is considered to be sacred to Buddha and rosaries are often fashioned from it.
Because amethyst is thought to encourage celibacy and symbolize piety, it was very important in the ornamentation of Catholic and other churches in the Middle Ages. It was, in particular, considered to be the stone of bishops and they still often wear amethyst rings.
Amethyst is also mentioned in the Bible (Ex. 28:19; 39:12) as one of the 12 stones adorning the breastplate (hoshen) of the high priests of Yahweh.
The legend of the origin of amethyst comes from Greek mythology. Dionysus, the god of intoxication, was angered one day by an insult from a mere mortal and swore revenge on the next mortal that crossed his path, creating fierce tigers to carry out his wish. Along came unsuspecting Amethyst, a beautiful young maiden on her way to pay tribute to the goddess Diana. Diana turned Amethyst into a stature of pure crystalline quartz to protect her from the brutal claws. Dionysus wept tears of wine in remorse for his action at the sight of the beautiful statue. The god's tears stained the quartz purple, creating the gem we know today.
Amethyst is a variety of quartz which occurs in a transparent light to dark purple. It has long been treasured by kings and queens as well as high figures in religious sects because of its rich, royal color. It can be traced back to the Minoan period in Greece (c. 2500 B.C.) where it was found as polished cabochons (dome-shaped stones) set in gold.
Amethysts were popular in the parures (matching sets) of the 1820's. They were a favorite medium for Art Nouveau craftsmen and are still favorites of creative modern jewelry designers. A major reason for their popularity in jewelry design has been their wide availability and reasonable price. Fine pieces are attainable with not much difficulty and lent themselves to freedom of design.
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