Thursday, April 20, 2017

Geology Through Literature - Idylls of the King

The next up on my Geology Through Literature thread is Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson published between 1859 and 1885. You can get my complete thoughts on the book/story over at my blog - The Remnant, but for here I will just go into the geological or basic scientific aspects that are brought up in the story.

The story is an epic poem based on the life of King Arthur. There is only one geological instance worth noting in the story itself.

"Chapter": Gareth and Lynette
"In dewy grasses glistened; and the hair 
All over glanced with dewdrop of with gem 
Like sparkles in the stone Avanturine."

Avanturine, more commonly spelled Aventurine, is a gemstone variety of quartz (SiO2). However, unlike the typical varieties of quartz like amethyst, smokey quartz, or milky quartz (to name a few), aventurine contains flecks of mica and other materials incorporated into the crystal. It is these flecks that give the crystal a "sparkle" as the poem states (

A green variety of aventurine. 

Aventurine was named after the Italian words "a ventura", meaning by chance. This is in reference to the chance creation of the artificial aventurine variety now referred to as goldstone where flecks of copper were incorporated into a bit of glass creating a similar, but much more dazzling, appearance (

Goldstone, an artificial "gemstone" similar to aventurine in appearance, except it is often made with glass and copper flecks or other metals (wikipedia).

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Drunk on Geology - Amethystos

The next up in our Drunk on Geology series is Amethystos - Sauvignon Blanc from the Domaine Costa Lazaridi Winery in Adriani, Drama, Greece.

As can be assumed, Amethystos is the Greek translation of Amethyst, the purple variety of the mineral quartz.
Our puppy Oreo wanting to get in on the photography action.

Like I said, amethyst is the purple variety of quartz (SiO2). Pure quartz is clear or white, however the purple color in amethyst comes from the integration of trace amounts of iron that is incorporated into the crystal structure as it is forming. After crystallization, gamma rays produced from radioactive materials in the host rock irradiate the iron to produce the purple color (

Amethyst from Uruguay (

But why amethyst? I can see the purple color reminding people of grapes and some varieties of wine, but is there something more? Turns out there is:

The greek word "amethystos" actually can be translated as "not drunken" or "not intoxicated". This is because the ancient Greeks believed that amethyst crystals themselves prevented people from getting drunk. This is also the reason many Greeks made wine goblets carved out of amethyst crystals.

One of the earliest records that we have of this is the poem by Asclepiades of Samos (born 320 BCE) Windflowers of Asklepiades:
"Drunkenness am I - a gem worked by a subtle hand. I am graven in amethyst, and the subject and the stone are ill-sorted.But I am the precious property of Kleopatra, and on the finger of a Queen even "drunkenness" should be sober.* 
(*a play on words since amethyst means not drunkenness)" 
Another early example is an epigram by Plato the Younger found in The Greek Anthology:
"The stone is an Amethyst; but I, the tippler Bacchus, say- 'Let it either persuade me to be sober; or let it learn to get drunk."

One last example from Asclepiades also in The Greek Anthology:
"I am Drunkenness, the carving of a clever hand; but I am carved upon an Amethyst. Now the stone is alien to the art. But I am the holy possession of Cleopatra. For on the hand of a queen it behoves even a goddess, when drunk, to become sober."
Text from the back of the bottle:
"Produced from the noble white variety of Sauvignon Blanc, this dry white wine has a brilliant green-yellow color and complex bouquet. Its smoky hue and the aromas of wood, nuts and vanilla are a perfect match for the fragrance of the grape. This full-bodied, rich, well-balanced wine has a highly aromatic finish. Served at 54° F, it perfectly complements smoked salmon, fatty fish and shellfish."

Glamour shot.

So there you go. Amethyst is the patron crystal of the winos.