South Carolina State Gemstone – Amethyst

South Carolina SC Facts & Firsts SC State Symbols SC State Gemstone Amethyst, a variety of quartz, became our official state gemstone on June 24, 1969 (view Act No. 345). This designation followed the discovery of several world-class amethysts at the Ellis-Jones Mine near Due West. Samples of these amethysts are presently on display at the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Additional Abbeville County mines, near Lowndesville and Antreville, also hold amethyst reserves.

SC's State Gemstone Amethyst
SC State Gemstone – Amethyst

Amethysts are found in elongated clusters rising like pyramids out of a geode base. (A geode is a hollow rock filled or partially filled with crystals.) Ideal stones have six sides. Amethysts can range from pale lilac to deep violet. These color variations are caused by many factors including iron content. Basically, the higher the iron, the deeper the purple. Today, most gem dealers use heat to deepen an amethyst's color artificially.

The word amethyst derives from Ancient Greek and means "not intoxicated." Legend suggests amethysts negate the effects of alcohol. Once considered more valuable than diamonds, amethysts were coveted by queens and kings around the globe. Perhaps this was due to the amethyst's color. Purple dye was historically scarce and reserved for those with wealth and money. By extension, the color purple became a symbol of royalty and retains this connection today. Large amethysts can be found in both the Sovereign's Orb and the Sceptre with the Cross, focal points of the famous British Crown Jewels. In recognition of its many qualities, the amethyst is the birthstone for February.

SC's State Gemstone Natural Amethyst
Natural Amethyst Crystals

In the spring of 2008, a group of rock enthusiasts gathered at Diamond Hill Quartz Prospect, near the town of Antreville, for a day of prospecting. And what a day they had! An amethyst, weighing 118 pounds, was carefully extracted to reveal a spectrum of purple crystals measuring up to 14 inches long. It is the biggest cluster of pure amethyst crystals ever found in the state and perhaps all of North America. This tremendous find is on permanent exhibit in the Natural History section of the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia.

Active prospecting for amethysts continues today in South Carolina. Diamond Hill allows individuals and groups to search the pits and trenches for buried treasure. In 2010, the Mountain Area Gem and Mineral Association of North Carolina made a very successful trip. Pictures of their field work can be seen here. But before you grab your picks and head for the hills, please be aware that prior authorization is required.

Learn More about the Amethyst

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