Amethyst is found in many countries, such as Brazil, Uruguay, Russia, and the United States. It usually forms when hot liquids with silicon and iron seep through holes in rocks. As these liquids cool and harden, they become amethyst and other crystals.
If we want to know where amethyst comes from, it’s good to first understand how amethyst is created in different places and why. So let’s start by finding out how amethyst forms.
By the end of this blog post, you’ll know:
- The two ways that amethyst is created
- Which countries amethyst comes from and what types form there
- How amethyst is mined
- What happens to the crystals after they’re taken out the ground
How amethyst forms
Amethyst forms in the Earth’s crust when there’s heat, pressure, and the right kind of chemical process. The exact process that makes crystals depends on the location and geological conditions.
Amethyst is quartz crystal, which is made of silicon and oxygen. Quartz forms when hot silica-rich fluids flow through holes in rocks. These fluids usually come from volcanoes.
As the fluids cool down and harden, silica that was dissolved in the fluids turns into a quartz crystal structure.
If there are no impurities or other minerals, then clear quartz forms. But if iron is in the fluids, it turns the crystal purple to become amethyst.
The exact shade of purple depends on how much iron and other elements are in the fluid. Click here to find out what surprising things make amethyst purple.
As the crystals grow, they change in shape and size depending on their environment. Amethyst crystals are usually prisms or hexagons, with one pointed end and a rough, irregular base at the other end.
Sometimes amethyst crystals form as geodes. Geodes are spherical-shaped holes in rocks lined with crystals. When we open a geode, the crystals are usually quite big, a gorgeous deep purple, and have various shapes and arrangements.
Amethyst forms in geodes when mineral-rich fluids containing silicon dioxide flow into holes in rocks.
Over time, the fluids deposit microscopic crystals of quartz, which eventually grow into large crystals that fill the cavity.
Where amethyst comes from
When there’s a lot of amethyst in one place, it’s called a “deposit”.
Amethyst is pretty much found around the world, but some of the greatest deposits are in:
Brazil is the largest producer of amethyst, giving us about two-thirds of the world’s supply.
The state of Rio Grande do Sul (Great River of the South) in southern Brazil is very well-known for its high-quality amethyst deposits.
Amethyst in Brazil is often in geodes. These formed in volcanic rock and were created by gas bubbles trapped in lava as it cooled and solidified. Over time, mineral-rich groundwater seeped into the geodes and deposited quartz crystals, including amethyst.
Uruguay is another major producer of amethyst, known for its deep, rich purple stones. Many people love to collect this amethyst because it’s so clear and has such a beautiful color.
Amethyst in Uruguay is usually in veins within basalt rock, which formed from volcanic activity. Quartz crystals, including amethyst, were deposited over time from mineral-rich fluids.
Zambia is a significant source of amethyst in Africa. Zambian amethyst is often a light, bluish-purple color and sometimes has red flashes in it.
Zambian amethyst is often found in pockets within granite rocks. The granite formed by the cooling and solidification of molten magma deep within the Earth’s crust.
Russia has been a source of amethyst for centuries, with large deposits found in the veins in metamorphic rocks in Siberia.
Siberian amethyst is known for its deep, rich color with tints of red and blue in it, and is highly prized by collectors.
The Gyeongsang Province in South Korea is known for its high-quality amethyst deposits, which have been mined for centuries.
Amethyst in South Korea is found in geodes within andesite rock formations. These rocks formed from volcanic activity and the geodes were gas bubbles that got trapped in lava as it cooled and hardened.
Over time, mineral-rich groundwater seeped into the geodes and deposited quartz crystals, including amethyst.
There are amethyst deposits in several places in the US, including Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina. The Four Peaks amethyst mine in Arizona is particularly known for its high-quality stones.
Amethyst in the US is often found in veins in igneous and metamorphic rocks, which formed from volcanic activity and as the Earth’s structure changed (i.e. tectonic forces), respectively.
Other notable sources of amethyst include Canada, Madagascar, Namibia, and India.
The quality and characteristics of amethyst can vary depending on its location of origin, making the origin an important factor in evaluating the value of the stone.
How amethyst is mined
Amethyst can be mined using various methods depending on the location and size of the deposit. Here are some ways amethyst is mined:
Open-pit mining is the most common way to mine large amethyst deposits that are not very deep in the ground.
This method involves the removal of soil, rock, and other materials with bulldozers, excavators, and trucks. This exposes the amethyst crystals below.
Underground mining is used when amethyst deposits are too small or too deep for open-pit mining.
In underground mining, miners build tunnels and shafts to reach the crystals. The amethyst is then taken out with special tools and equipment.
In alluvial mining, amethyst crystals are mined in riverbeds or dams after being washed downstream. Miners dig in and sift through the soil and other materials to find crystals.
This is a similar concept to what you might know as panning, but on a larger scale.
What happens when amethyst is taken from the ground
Once amethyst is taken from the ground, it goes to a processing facility where it’s cleaned, sorted, and graded. The rough crystals are washed and sometimes heated to remove dirt or impurities.
They are then sorted based on their size, color, and clarity, and graded according to a standardized system.
High-quality amethyst is typically cut and polished into gemstones for jewelry or decor, while lower-grade amethyst may be used for industrial purposes.