The word ‘garnet’ is derived from the Latin ‘granatum,’ which means ‘pomegranate,’ because the crystals resemble the fruit’s red colour and seed-like form. Most people think of the garnet as a red gemstone, but in fact, it exists in all kinds of colours, including black, red and green. It can even be colourless. The garnet’s variety of colours come from metals such as manganese, iron, calcium, and aluminum. Some varieties even contain mineral fibers that produce the illusion of a four to six-rayed star within the stone.
Garnet has a long history of being revered as a precious stone. The tombs of pharaohs in Egypt have been discovered by archaeologists to contain garnet amulets and noble patriarchs of Rome were known to have carved signet rings made from garnet. Ancient Persians also only allowed their kings to own and wear garnets. Pre-Columbian Aztec and Native Americans also used garnets in their ornaments.
The garnet is a very durable gemstone (6.5-7.5 on the Mohs scale) found all over the world, including the USA, Czech Republic, Greece, Russian, Tanzania, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and India. Garnets are commonly found as small pebbles in streams, where the igneous and metamorphic rocks that contain them have weathered away. While garnet jewellery is fairly durable, you should handle it with care. Avoid knocks, and store it separately so that harder gems like diamonds do not scratch the surface.
If you’re looking to purchase a garnet for yourself or a loved one, it is a great way to celebrate friendship, toast a wedding anniversary or recognise the wearer’s January birthday. When checking a garnet, look at how it reacts under light, both natural and synthetic and check for an intense, saturated colour. Remember, garnets commonly come in a wide spectrum of reds, but can also be green, pink, colourless or blue. The price of the piece will likely increase for more rare colours like green or blue.
Garnets can also be judged along some of the same parameters as diamonds, with clarity and cut affecting the beauty and value of the stone. It should be noted that some garnets have inclusions that are part of the beauty of the overall stone, such as horsetails in Demantoid garnets, or Hessonite garnets which sometimes have a turbulent look. You might discover that you like the unique look these inclusions bring to the piece. The most common crystal shape for garnets is the rhombic dodecahedron, a twelve sided crystal with diamond-shaped faces.
January’s birthstone, the garnet, symbolizes a light heart, loyalty and enduring affections. No matter which stone or piece you choose, remember that the garnet is known for its durability and richness of colour, so your investment will be a piece that stands the test of time. Here at the vintage jeweller, we currently have garnet pieces that would make fantastic gifts for January birthdays, New Year gifts or even for any time of the year!