Did you know that amethyst — February’s dazzling birthstone — is actually the purple variety of the mineral quartz?

Colorless quartz, known as “rock crystal,”  was primarily used in ancient times to manufacture crystal balls and bowls. Other  varieties include the October birthstone citrine, as well as rose quartz, smoky quartz, and tiger’s eye.

Violetish purple amethyst

This violetish purple, 23.76-carat cushion cut amethyst is from Brazil.

As the most prized member of the quartz family, amethyst boasts several key attributes. It is relatively common, affordable, and as cut stones, can be  found in large sizes across a wide  range of gem cuts and shapes.

Cushion cut amethyst.

To preserve an amethyst’s lustrous color, avoid prolonged exposure to heat or sunlight. If the stone is mounted, use a toothbrush to clean behind  it where dust tends to collect, and  wash it with warm, soapy water. Ultrasonic cleaning is usually considered safe, though steam cleaning is not recommended.

Read up on amethyst lore, and how wearing one can symbolize personal empowerment.