Birthstone: February

Hardness: 7

Amethyst has long been a favorite gem of kings and queens for its royal purple hues. The gem, the most precious member of the quartz family, exhibits color ranging from pale lilac to deep purple.

Through the ages, various special properties have also been prescribed to amethyst. The Greeks and Romans considered it a strong antidote against drunkenness and drank wine from goblets carved out of the gem. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote that amethyst could dissipate evil thoughts and quicken the intelligence. The stone also is supposed to bring peace of mind to the wearer. In some legends the stone also represents piety, celibacy and dignity.

The stone is mined in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia and Argentina, as well as in Zambia, Namibia and other African nations. Very dark amethyst in small sizes also is mined in Australia. Most of today's amethyst comes out of Brazil.

The finest and most valuable amethysts are very clear, with very deep color. Some stones are so oversaturated with color they have areas that are blacked out, which can negatively impact their value. Amethyst is available in a wide range of calibrated sizes and shapes, including many fancy cuts.