Which Gemstone Was Believed To Protect The Wearer From Drunkenness?
If you’re familiar with Ancient Greek, the answer to this trivia question was a walk in the park as the English word used to describe the common violet variety of quartz, “amethyst,” is derived from the Ancient Greek word “amethustos.” The word evolved with the Greek language and became “amethystos,” then it jumped from Greek to English as “amethyst.”
While the word in reference to the stone made the jump from Greek to English intact just fine, what didn’t come along for the ride was the meaning of the word itself. In Ancient Greek, the prefix and suffix of a- and methustos translates as “not” and “intoxicated,” then when the word transitioned to more modern Greek and became “amethystos,” it retained the meaning of “not drunken.”
This meaning may seem quite odd to a modern reader, but ancient Greeks believed that amethyst was a very strong antidote against drunkenness. They would wear jewelry decorated with the stone and drink from goblets carved out of large crystals in a bid to protect themselves from intoxication. Why amethyst and why protection from drunkenness? There are several myths and legends that all have variations on the theme of amethyst gaining its color from the wine of the gods (in one story Bacchus himself pours wine over a white stone and in another Dionysus weeps tears of wine upon a crystalline quartz statue), both leading to the creation of amethyst. The stone, therefore, had an association with the power and protection of the gods.
Image by Axel Naud.