If you were born in February, your birthstone is amethyst – a purple gemstone that has starring roles in the jewelry and regalia of kings and queens. The February birthstone is found in the personal collections of Great Britain’s and Russia’s royal families. Britain’s Duchess of Windsor (1896-1986) commissioned a now famous amethyst necklace. Empress Catherine II (1729-1796) of Russia, also known as Catherine the Great, was particularly fond of amethyst and used the gem in buttons, earrings, necklaces and aigrettes (hair ornaments that usually held feathers, or were in the shape of a feather, and were often set with gems). Ancient cultures also loved amethyst and it has been found in 4,400-year-old jewelry.

Aigrette hat ornament

Worn by men and women, this aigrette hat ornament (circa 1600) is made of gold, table-cut diamonds, and enamel. It was designed to imitate egret feather plumes worn by Indian potentates. Photo: GIA, Courtesy: National Museum of Poland, Szczecin

Thanks to the discovery of large amethyst deposits in Brazil in the 19th century, the February birthstone is a gem that’s affordable and beautiful for everyday jewelry, as well as crown jewels. Let’s take a trip to some amethyst sources around the world to learn where it comes from. But first, a little background to help you understand the gemological properties of your February birthstone.

Amethyst bib necklace

The Duchess of Windsor commissioned Cartier to create this breathtaking bib necklace, which boasts 29 amethysts including one large heart-shaped stone, turquoise cabochons, and brilliant cut and baguette cut diamonds all set in 18K and 20K gold. She debuted the piece at a 1953 gala at Versailles. Photo: N. Welsh, Cartier Collection © Cartier

The Scoop on February Birthstone: Amethyst

Amethyst is a variety of quartz. The gem comes in colors that range from light lilac to a deep, intense purple. Natural irradiation acting on trace elements of iron in its crystal structure causes the color.

Many purple amethysts

From light lilac to intense purple: the many purples of February’s birthstone – amethyst are here on display. Photo: GIA and Tino Hammid

Amethyst often shows color zoning (areas of different color in a gem, caused by variations in the conditions under which the gem formed). Amethyst that is medium-dark to dark reddish purple with no visible color zoning is typically the most desirable. Heat treatment is commonly used to lighten dark amethyst to make it more attractive and to remove brownish hues.

Quartz is ubiquitous, so amethyst (purple quartz) is found in many countries. However, it is not always gem quality and in sufficient quantities to make large-scale commercial mining feasible. Here, we’ll focus on major producing areas, so read on to find out where your February birthstone is found.

Amethyst from Zambia

Amethyst from Zambia

These amethysts from Zambia are colorful proof that the country is one of the most important sources of the gem. Photo: Robert Weldon/GIA. Courtesy: Guy Clutterbuck

Zambia is a major producer of amethyst. A vast tract of grasslands and forests, the Miombo Woodlands sprawl across central and southern Africa. In this gem rich country, the Kariba amethyst mine in the copperbelt region of Zambia is our destination. Shrubs, small trees, occasional hills make up the surrounding landscape. Amethyst mined here tends to be of superb quality with richly saturated colors.

Woodland in Zambia

Twilight in a Zambian woodland. Photo: Brendan Laurs/GIA.

Amethyst from Brazil

Amethyst from Brazil

This 140 ct amethyst from Brazil dances with light thanks to its fantasy cut by lapidary Victor Tuzlukov. Photo: Robert Weldon/GIA. Courtesy: Victor Tuzlukov

In addition to Zambia, Brazil is an important producer of amethyst, where it sometimes forms in hollow, crystal-lined geodes so large you can stand in them.

The Rio Grande do Sul region is one of the most important amethyst sources in the country. One productive mine is nestled in a heavily forested area, hedged in by lush ferns and trickling waterfalls, and the surroundings prowled at night by panthers and jaguars. Rough amethyst mined here tends to have lighter color than amethyst found in other countries.

Large amethyst geode

Amethyst geodes can be massive. This one dwarfs a GIA staffer.

Just 30 minutes from the mine, in the town of Ametista do Sul stands the Matriz Church – a Spanish Colonial style edifice in white stone and gold trim. Inside awaits a stunning surprise: the walls are covered with clusters of rough amethyst crystals, while other impressive specimens decorate the altar. A cross of gold and amethyst inspires the faithful.

Matriz Church interior

From left to right: More than 40 tons of rough amethyst decorates the walls of the Matriz Church. The edifice rightly takes its place with the great bejeweled buildings of the world. A gold cross, studded with amethyst, is the perfect complement to the church’s walls. Photo: Robert Weldon/GIA

Amethyst from Bolivia

Amethyst from Bolivia

A 16.11 ct emerald cut amethyst from Bolivia showcases the beauty of the lighter shades of amethyst. Photo: Robert Weldon/GIA. Courtesy: Ramiro Rivero & Metals del Oriente S.R.L.

The Anahí mine is hidden in a maze of swamplands and waterways of the Pantanál ecological reserve. The location’s history includes a 17th-century conquistador, a native princess, centuries of being forgotten and rediscovered, and the claim to being the world’s only source of ametrine (a mix of amethyst and citrine). A single-engine prop airplane is the most expeditious way to get to the remote, security-patrolled location – but you’ll need an invitation to go. It’s also best to travel during the dry season, as the rainy season brings rushing rivers, tropical bugs, and torrential rains. Other times of the year, the landscape is a rainbow of parrots, toucans, and exotic wildflowers.

Amethyst mine interior

Pockets of amethyst turn the Anahí mine into a magical wonderland. Photo: Robert Weldon/GIA.

Amethyst from Arizona

Arizona amethysts.

Skilled faceting minimizes color zoning in these amethysts from the Four Peaks mine. Photo: Maha Tannous/GIA.

Just 46 miles outside of Phoenix, high on a rocky mountainside is the entrance to the Four Peaks mine in Maricopa County, Arizona. A remote location, hot summer temperatures, a lack of water and power at the mine makes for challenging conditions. This jagged, arid, rattlesnake-infested terrain in the Mazatzal Mountains produces amethyst crystals that range from light to dark purple, and includes some purplish red material.

Four Peaks Mine, Arizona

Even though the Four Peaks mine is less than 50 miles from Phoenix, it seems a world away because of its remote location. Photo: James Shigley/GIA.

Amethyst: Royal, regal, and affordable

Amethyst earrings

This modern, elegant design is Matthew Campbell Laurenza’s Spring Bouquet pendant (top and side view) set with one 23.50 ct amethyst and a total of 0.55 carats of diamonds in 18K yellow gold. Courtesy: Matthew Campbell Laurenza

Until large deposits of amethyst were discovered in Brazil just two centuries ago, the gem was as expensive as ruby and emerald, and relegated largely to the nobility. Today, amethyst is plentiful and affordable. Fine quality natural amethyst has a modest price tag, and the price per carat does not rise dramatically with larger size. So if you were born in February – or love the color purple – consider making a royal statement by adding a piece of beautiful amethyst jewelry to your wardrobe.

Be sure to read our amethyst buying guide for tips on what to look for when selecting the February birthstone.