By Maria Doulton in London
Looking into the rich, lustrous depths of an amethyst cabochon makes it very easy to understand why this stone was considered to be as valuable as an emerald or ruby in ancient times.
It is only in more recent history, when last century's abundant supplies of inferior quality amethyst flooded the market, that this majestic mineral of the quartz family lost its lustre.
But as jewellers increasingly look for stones beyond the traditional trio of sapphires, rubies and emeralds, the amethyst is coming into its own once again. Add in the fact that the Pantone Institute has declared mauve-hued 'Radiant Orchid' the colour of the year and amethyst's desirability is at fever pitch.
A large, high-quality amethyst with a deep, evenly saturated hue and flashes of mauve is now highly sought-after, a fact reflected in recent designs where this purple gem sits centre stage.
In fact, a few years ago it would have been an anomaly to see an amethyst elevated to such heights in jewels by the likes of Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Tiffany or Chopard. Bulgari, known for its fabulous colour combinations, has always valued the amethyst, so it is no surprise that it is a house favourite, regularly combined with emeralds, turquoise or mandarin garnets to magnificent effect.
It's not just the elite jewellery houses that are embracing purple quartz. Everywhere I look amethyst is glowing in edgy designs, from a one-of-a-kind amethyst necklace by the bearded and tattooed London jeweller Duffy to the jewels of Brazilian Silvia Furmanovich, who cleverly juxtaposes her native stone with unexpected materials.
In collaboration with Gemfields, a leading supplier of coloured stones, Jordan Askill sends swallows swooping around nuggets of amethyst, while New York designer Alexandra Mor uses a more traditional stepped-cut amethyst in an impressively large yet refined ring. Designers from around the world are warming to its glossy ripeness, and the purple haze looks set to continue throughout 2014 and beyond.
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