Am'ethyst (אחלָמָה, achlamah'; Sept. and N.T. ἀμέθυστος, Vulg. amethystus), a precious stone mentioned in Scripture as the ninth in the breastplate of the high-priest (Ex 28:19; Ex 39:12), and the twelfth in the foundations of the New Jerusalem (Re 21:20). The transparent gems to which this name is applied are of a color which seems composed of a strong blue and deep red, and, according as either of these prevails, exhibit different tinges of purple, sometimes approaching to violet, and sometimes declining even to a rose color. From these differences of color the ancients distinguished five species of the amethyst; modern collections afford at least as many varieties, but they are all comprehended under two species — the Oriental amethyst and the Occidental amethyst. These names, however, are given to stones of essentially different natures, which were, no doubt, anciently confounded in the same manner. The Oriental amethyst is very scarce, and of great hardness, lustre, and beauty. It is, in fact, a rare variety of the adamantine spar, or corundum. Next to the diamond, it is the hardest substance known. It contains about 90 per cent. of alumine, a little iron, and a little silica. Of this species emery, used in cutting and polishing glass, etc., is a granular variety. To this species also belongs the sapphire, the most valuable of gems next to the diamond, and of which the Oriental amethyst is merely a violet variety. Like other sapphires, it loses its color in the fire, and comes out with so much of the lustre and color of the diamond that the most experienced jeweller may be deceived by it. The more common, or Occidental amethyst, is a variety of quartz, or rock crystal, and is found in various forms in many parts of the world, as India, Siberia, Sweden, Germany, Spain; and even in England very beautiful specimens of tolerable hardness have been discovered. This also loses its color in the fire (Penny Cyclopoedia, s.v.). Amethysts were much used by the anicients for rings and cameos and the reason given by Pliny, because they were easily cut (Hist. Nat. 37, 9), shows that the Occidental species is to be understood. The ancients believed that the amethyst possessed the power of dispelling drunkenness in those who wore or touched it (Anthol. Gr. 4, 18, Pliny, 37:9; Marbodius, De Gemmis, c. 4) and hence its Greek name ("from a privative, and μεθύω, to get drunk," Martini, Excurs. p. 158). In like manner the rabbins derive its Jewish name (from חָלִם, to dream), from its supposed power of procuring dreams to the wearer. (See Bruckmann, Abhandlung von den Edelsteinean; Hill's Theophrastus, notes; Hillier, De gemmus in pector. pontif., Rosenmuller, Mineralogy of the Bible; Braun, De vestitu sacerd. 2, 16; Bellarmin, Urim und Thummim, p. 55; Moore's Anc. Mineralogy, p. 168.) SEE GEM.

Bible concordance for AMETHYST.

Definition of amethyst

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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