State gemstone. Amethyst is violet or purple-colored quartz. The word amethyst comes from the Greek amethystos, meaning “not drunken.” This reflects the tradition that ancient Greeks and Romans liked to drink wine from cups studded with the stone, believing that they would not become intoxicated. For centuries it was customary for bishops to wear amethysts in their rings, giving rise to the term “bishop grade” for the finest stones of deep purple. In medieval England, the amethyst was believed to be a protection against disease, and King Edward the Confessor (reigned 1042– 1066) is said to have worn the stone for that reason. Amethyst was one of the gems set into the breastplate of ancient Israel’s high priest, and it figures in the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse) as one of the precious stones in the foundation of the wall of the Holy City of Jerusalem.
Amethyst became the official South Carolina gemstone by a law signed by Governor Robert McNair on June 24, 1969. The legislators noted that South Carolina is one of the few states “where the gem stone amethyst of good quality is found in the United States” and that “the amethyst is the most prized type of quartz for its wide use and various shades and hue from deep orchid color.”
One of the best amethyst finds in the United States occurred in 1965 at the Ellis-Jones Amethyst Mine, near Due West in Abbeville County. This was a fifteen-pound cluster of amethyst crystals of rich purple color. A large group of the Due West crystals was put on dis- play in the Gems and Minerals Section of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and appeared on a postage stamp issued in 1974.
Lininger, Jay L. “The History of Amethyst at Due West, South Carolina.” Matrix: A Journal of the History of Minerals 5 (spring 1997): 24–30.
White, John S., and Robert B. Cook. “Amethyst Occurrences of the Eastern United States.” Mineralogical Record 21 (May–June 1990): 203–13.
Yates, Nancy C. “Amethyst and Granite: The Official Gemstone and Stone of the State of South Carolina.” Sandlapper 4 (March 1971): 24–27.