Amethyst Gemstones: Guide to Price, Quality and Value

In antiquity, the most valuable gems were known as the cardinal gems. They included Diamond, Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire and Amethyst. These were the gems most valued for their rarity, and the ones most associated with royalty, religious authority and magical powers.

The only difference between this list and the more recent concept of precious gems is that Amethyst no longer appears on the modern list. What happened? The answer is that extensive amethyst deposits were discovered in South America in the early 19th century, and Amethyst was no longer regarded as a rare gem.

But the rich purple hue of Amethyst retains its allure, and gem collectors still seek out particularly fine specimens. For the fact is, despite the large volume of purple quartz mined in South America -- hundreds of tons per year -- the vast majority of it is commercial grade material with a less saturated color. Fine deep purple Amethyst is still fairly rare, though not especially expensive.

13.02 ct Amethyst Pair, Brazil 9.20 ct Amethyst Pair, Brazil 18.04 ct Amethyst Pair, Brazil
Amethyst Matched Pairs from Brazil

Historically, fine Amethyst came from the Ural Mountains in Russia and Idar-Oberstein in Germany, though both of these deposits are now exhausted. Very large deposits were discovered in southern Brazil in the early 19th century, with subsequent discoveries in nearby Uruguay. In the 1950's high quality amethyst was found in Zambia

The Zambian Amethyst has acquired the reputation as some of the finest in the world due to its unusually rich color. In fact the Zambian stones have such a saturated color that some material has to be rejected as too dark, a problem that rarely occurs with South American Amethyst. However, the Zambian amethyst is mainly found in smaller sizes, with stones over 10 carats counting as very rare.

The higher grades of Brazilian and Uruguay amethyst can match the Zambian material and we have seen top grade specimens from all three locations. With Amethyst, it is always advisable to select the gem, not the location.

Amethyst Crystal, Brazil
 Amethyst Crystal, Brazil

Amethyst occurs in primary hues from a light pinkish violet color to a deep purple color. Amethyst may exhibit one or both secondary hues, red and blue. High quality amethyst can be found in Siberia, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Uruguay, and the far East. The light lilac or lavender hue has been marketed as Rose de France. These pale colors were once considered undesirable but have recently become more popular due to intensive marketing.

Many amethyst collectors search out the deepest purples they can find. But while the darker purples are highly prized, you will find they are not as sparkly as the slightly lighter stones. For a livelier stone, look for the medium to medium-dark tones.

For a gem which was once regarded as precious as Sapphire, Amethyst is very affordable, even at the higher grades. Prices for high quality cut stones are typically in the range of $20 to $30 per carat, with particularly fine pieces around $40 per carat.

Most fine Amethyst is very clean and completely untreated and can be found in large sizes. It's quite a durable gem and is suitable for all kinds of jewelry.

See our collection of Fine Amethyst