Historical perspectives on amethyst

Because amethyst is one of the more popular stones, it seemed worth learning a bit more of how it was used throughout history. As the excerpts below highlight, amethyst was used for more than preventing drunkenness.

From A Lapidary of Sacred Stones by Claude Lecouteux, p47-48

“In the thirteenth century, it was said the amethyst prevented the devil from causing harm and preventd a person from seeing ‘ghosts’ (fantasme). It also provided protection from the entity known as a nightmare and from fevers, it granted riches, and made one humble, courteous, and gracious.”

“Etched with the moon and sun and hung around the neck with hairs from a cynocephalus* and feathers from a swallow, it protects one from evil spells. Its magical properties are increased if set in gold or silver and if a man on horseback holding a scepter is carved on it.”

* cynocephalus likely refers to some type of baboon

“If one finds an image of an amethyst of a man with a sword in hand seated on a dragon, and this stone is then set in a ring of lead or iron, the wearer will obtain the obedience of all the spirits, tnd they will revela where treasures are hidden and answer whatever questions he may ask.”

Amethyst with checkerboard cut
A beautiful checkerboard cut amethyst from our collection at Dragon Dreams Jewelry, LLC

A variety of quartz

“Beads of quartz have been found in caves in Israel that were occupied between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago.”[1]  Clearly quartz has been valued over time as a stone of worth for adornment.

There are many varieties of stone in the quartz family.  Many are commonly known as quartz: rose quartz, smoky quartz, blue quartz, milky quartz, tourmalinated quartz, rutilated quartz, strawberry quartz, amethyst, and even citrine.  However, there are still others less commonly known to be quartz.

  • Aventurine – usually a milky medium to dark green colored stone but it may be a metallic orange-brown color
  • Dumortierite quartz – a rare violet-blue to denim-blue colored stone
  • Prasiolite – a pale green stone that may be anywhere from transparent to translucent; most prasiolite is created by heating amethyst or citrine
  • Tiger’s eye/hawk’s eye – tiger’s eye has brownish yellow – golden brown/green colors while hawk’s eye has darker blue/black colors; both have the “cat’s eye” effect (chatoyancy) because of the way quartz filled in for the asbestos in the rock fibers as the stone formed


[1] The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe, p.67

Lemon citrine in Sterling Silver

Hildegard von Bingen on Stones

The following excerpt is from Hildegard von Bingen’s Physica: The Complete English Translation by Priscilla Throop.  Hildegard von Bingen, who was canonized as a saint in 2012, lived from 1098-1179 CE.  The segment below provides an overview of her beliefs about powers ascribed to gemstones.  I hope you enjoy this historical perspective as much as I did.

Every stone contains fire and moisture.  The devil abhors, detests, and disdains precious stones.  This is because he remembers that their beauty was manifest on him before he fell from the glory God had given him, and because some precious stones are engendered from fire, in which he receives his punishment.  By the will of God, the devil was vanquished by the fire into which he fell, just as he is vanquished by the fire of the Holy Spirit when humans are snatched from his jaws by the first breath of the Holy Spirit.

Precious stones and gems arise in the Orient, in areas where the sun’s heat is very great.  From the hot sun, mountains there have heat as powerful as fire.  The rivers in those areas always boil from the sun’s great heat.  Whence at times an inundation of those rivers bursts forth and ascends those scorching mountains.  The mountains, burning with the sun’s heat, are touched by those rivers.  Froth, similar to that produced by hot iron or a hot stone when water is poured over it, exudes from the places where the water touches the fire.  This froth adheres to that place and, in three or four days, hardens into stone.

Once the inundation has ceases and the waters have returned to the river bed, the pieces of froth dry up.  They dry from the sun’s heat and take their colors and powers in accordance with the time of day and the temperature.  Drying and hardening, they become precious stones and fall onto the sand, just like flaking fish scales.  When they flood again the rivers life up many of the stones, carrying them to other countries where they are later discovered by human beings.  The mountains, where so many and such large stones have sprung up in this way, shine like the light of day.

And so, precious stones are born from fire and water; whence they have fire and moisture in them.  they contain many powers and are effective for many needs.  many things can be done with them—but only good, honest actions, which are beneficial to human beings; not activities of seduction, fornication, adultery, enmity, homicide and the like, which tend toward vice and which are injurious to people.  The nature of these previous stones seeks honest and useful effects and rejects people’s depraved and evil uses, in the same way virtues cast off vices and vices are unable to engage with virtues.

Some stones do not originate from these mountains and are not of the same nature, but arise from other, useless things.  Through them, with God’s permission, it is possible for good and bad things to happen.

God had decorated the first angel as if with precious stones.  Lucifer, upon seeing them shine in the mirror of the Divinity, took knowledge from them and recognized that God wished to do many wondrous things.  his mind was exalted with pride, since the beauty of the stones which covered him shone in God.  he though that he could do deeds both equal to and greater than God’s.  And so his splendor was extinguished.  But, just as God restored Adam to a better part, He sent neither the beauty nor the powers of those precious stones to perdition, but willed that they would be held in honor and blessing on earth and used for medicine.