Most of us are familiar with the amethyst gemstone but where is amethyst found in the world? Amethyst is quite common and is found on all continents, with the larger deposits currently being mined in South America, Africa and North America. The largest global producer is Brazil with an annual production of around two to three thousand tons followed by Zambia producing about a thousand tons per year.
Amethyst is a type of quartz, one of the most common minerals on earth. Chemical processes and the presence of iron and manganese in the quartz gives amethyst its purple color, varying from pale lilac through lavender and mauve to deep violet. Amethyst crystals are hexagonal in structure made up of 6-sided prisms ending in 6-sided pyramids.
There are many varieties of amethyst differing in color or crystal formation, and usually named after the location they are found. Even within one country or region there can be a number of amethyst deposits, each producing crystals with their own unique properties. Some of the more well-known deposits and interesting varieties are listed below.
Zambia, Madagascar, Namibia, and South Africa
Often referred to as African Amethyst – the varieties found in Africa have smaller crystals and are richer in color with the highest production coming from Zambia. A unique variety called Cactus Quartz, which has a layer of smaller spiky crystals covering the main crystals, is only found in South Africa. Amethyst found in Namibia displays zones of color often interspersed with white quartz resulting in chevron type patterns.
Amethyst is found in small quantities in Australia and the crystals are small with dark coloring.
Russia, South Korea , India and Sri-Lanka
Two well-known high grade variants came from Russia – Deep Russian and Deep Siberian which have deep purple hues. These are some of the oldest known deposits and are now mostly depleted, but these terms are still used to describe high grade amethysts in the jewelry trade.
Hungary, Austria, Germany and Italy
Hungary produces a lilac coloured amethyst drusy. A drusy is the geological term to describe formations of hundreds of tiny crystals coating the surface of a rock. Austria has the largest opencast amethyst vein in the world near Maissau and has built a museum park to showcase the mine.
USA, Canada and Mexico
Amethyst is mined in the American states of Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, and Maine and it is the official state gemstone of South Carolina. There is an amethyst collection from USA and elsewhere at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Canadian Amethyst has unique red hematite mineral inclusions and the largest mine in North America is Thunder Bay, Ontario. Veracruse amethyst comes from Mexico and has a tall prismatic formation.
Brazil and Uruguay
One of the largest amethyst deposits in the world were discovered in the 19th century in Brazil which subsequently caused amethyst to lose its status as one of the most valuable gemstones, and today Brazil is still the largest global producer. Many amethyst deposits in Brazil and Uruguay are in geode formations. These are hollow rocks, formed originally from bubbles in a volcanic event, filled with crystals.
References and Further Info
- Minerals.Net – The Mineral Amethyst
- The Quartz Page – Amethyst by Location
- Gem Select – Amethyst Deposits
- Mindat.Org – Amethyst Specimens
Isn’t this so interesting? I never realized amethyst came in so many different forms and colors! Feel free to leave a comment about what fascinates you about gemstones. *Mandy