Amethysts are semiprecious stones in the quartz family. They are tinted lavender to deep purple by the addition of manganese and iron impurities to the quartz. Amethysts, the most valuable of the quartz gems, is designated as the February birthstone. The most valuable amethysts, known as Siberian amethysts, have deep purple coloring with flashes of blue and red. These gems are often found in or near other types of stones.
Amethysts are often found near other stones from the quartz family. Citrine, a yellow-colored quartz gem, is commonly found in combination with amethysts. Amethysts are also found on top of clear and cloudy gray quartz. Irradiation from the sun or surrounding elements causes the chemical change that turns amethysts purple. Neighboring quartz that isn't exposed to the irradiation or doesn't have the necessary manganese and iron to cause the purple coloration will not become an amethyst.
Amethysts form in long, prismatic crystals. The most prized place for collectors to find amethysts is in geodes, or hollow rocks filled with crystals. Geodes form in cavities of volcanic rock. As the rock cools and hardens, it's filled with hot substances for the surroundings--gases, mineral-saturated water and volcanic material--causing it to be hollow. As it cools and the substances distill out of the rock, the minerals in the water crystallize. The right minerals and water temperatures form amethysts.
The largest amethyst concentrations are found in volcanic rocks, according to The Quartz Page. These deposits are found all over the world, but the largest deposits are in Brazil and Uruguay. Prior to South America's rise as the top producer, most commercially mined amethysts came out of Russia and Siberia.
Although most amethyst deposits are found in igneous rocks, The Quartz Page says amethysts are also found in metamorphic rocks. They are rarely found in sedimentary rocks, because the chemical conditions necessary for amethyst formation aren't generally found as sedimentary rocks form. Amethysts are found around the world, but their look and shape is different depending on where they are mined.
About the Author
Rachel Murdock published her first article in "The Asheville Citizen Times" in 1982. Her work has been published in the "American Fork Citizen" and "Cincinnati Enquirer" as well as on corporate websites and in other online publications. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism at Brigham Young University and a Master of Arts in mass communication at Miami University of Ohio.
Amethyst image by photoBeard from Fotolia.com