Amethyst was originally regarded as a very precious stone, until the immense quantities received from Brazil reduced its value generally.
From the earliest dawn of history the occult properties of this stone as an antidote to inebriety have been recognised, by all writers, the name originating from a Greek word meaning “without intoxication,” and according to Aristotle it was also the name of a beautiful nymph who invoked the aid of Diana to protect her from the attentions of Bacchus, which the goddess did by converting her into a precious gem, upon which Bacchus, in remembrance of his love, gave the stone its colour and the quality of preserving its wearers from the noxious influence of wine.
The Egyptians used these stones freely for Talismans, their soldiers wearing them as Amulets for success in their exploits and calmness in danger. Pliny says the Magi believed that if the symbols of the Sun and Moon were engraved upon the Amethyst it made a powerful charm against witchcraft, and procured for its wearers success to their petitions, good luck, and the favour of those in authority. Camillus Leonardus, confirming its efficacy in restraining intoxication, says:
It also represses evil thoughts and all excesses, prevents contagion, and gives good understanding of hidden things, making a man vigilant and expert in business.
The Amethyst has always been associated with ecclesiastical decorations, its frequent use in episcopal rings giving rise to its description as “the Bishop’s Stone,” and rosaries of Amethyst beads were much in request in olden times to attract soothing influences in times of stress and to confer a pious calm on their wearers.
In religious art it was regarded as emblematic of resignation under earthly sufferings, patience in sorrow, and trust unto death, which Marbodus (translated by the Rev. C. W. King) expresses in verse:
On high the Amethyst is set In colour like the violet. With flames as if of gold it glows And far its purple radiance throws; The humble heart it signifies Of him who in the Saviour dies.
During the Middle Ages the qualities attributed to it were many: it indicated the presence of poison by becoming dim, also personal danger and ill-health by changing colour; it was, moreover, considered to give vigilance to business men, and to sportsmen and soldiers calmness in danger.
The Amethyst is the stone of St. Valentine, who is said to have always worn it; and in the days of romance and chivalry, if presented by a lady to her knight, or a bride to her husband in the shape of a heart set in silver, it was said to confer the greatest possible earthly happiness on the pair who would be blessed with good fortune for the remainder of their lives.
In connection with the soothing influence of this gem, it is interesting to note that according to modern research purple light rays have been found to exercise a calming effect upon nervous and hysterical patients and a consequent improvement in the vitality. Cases of neuralgia and sleeplessness have been relieved by an Amethyst rubbed gently over the temples. It is one of the very few gems that may universally be worn without adverse results.
“The Book of Talismans, Amulets, and Zodiacal Gems” by William Thomas and Kate Pavitt, originally published 1915.