The word “garnet” comes from the 14th century Middle English word gernet, meaning “dark red.” The word is derived from Latin granatum, which means “seed,” and is called so because of the gemstone’s resemblance to the beautifully red seeds of the pomegranate. Garnet is the name of a group of minerals that comes in a rainbow of colors, from the deep red of the pyrope garnet to the vibrant green of tsavorites. Some rare garnets are even blue, colorless, or—most rare of all—change colors in different lights. But the most common color is a beautiful range of reds, from rust colored to deep violet red. The garnet is a very durable gemstone (6.5-7.5 on the Mohs scale) found all over the world, including Wyoming, Czech Republic, Greece, Russia, Tanzania, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and India. Mandarin Spessartite Garnets, also known as Mandarin garnets are considered to be the most rare and expensive of all garnet stones. The folklore on garnet is extensive. Legend has it that the garnet can bring peace, prosperity, and good health to the home. Some even called it the “Gem of Faith,” and it’s believed that to those who wear it and do good, more good will come. (Conversely, it was also said to bring very bad fortune to those who commit bad acts while wearing it.) The garnet also symbolized deep and lasting friendship. With that legend in mind, give a garnet to someone whose friendship you deeply value. No matter why or how you wear garnet, this beautiful gemstone is perfect for those who share January birthdays and want to start each New Year with a sense of goodwill, happiness, and purpose.
The garnet is so durable, remnants of garnet jewelry can be found as far back as the Bronze Age. Other references go back to 3100 BC, when the Egyptians used garnet as inlays in their jewelry and carvings. The Egyptians even said it was the symbol of life. The garnet was very popular with the Romans in the 3rd and 4th century. This gemstone was also used as a talisman for protection both by warriors going into battle and to those who wanted to ward off pestilence and plague. Some ancient healers and wise men even placed garnets in wounds and praised its healing powers. Garnet jewelry has been a fixture throughout the ages. Garnets were often used as signet rings in ancient Rome, and the nobility favored garnets in the Middle Ages. The Victorians made garnets very popular during that time period. Some of the loveliest garnet gemstone jewelry from that era mimics its pomegranate namesake, with clusters of tiny red gems forming a larger statement piece. Today, the garnet can be found in a range of jewelry pieces and styles, from beautiful rings to stunning tiaras. Since the garnet can come in a range of colors, rare garnets in green or blue make breathtaking pieces, especially in pendants or drop earrings.
If you’re looking to purchase a garnet birthstone for yourself or a loved one, it is a great way to celebrate friendship, toast a 2nd wedding anniversary or recognize the wearer’s January birthday. When buying, first visit an American Gem Society jeweler, who can assist you in purchasing a garnet that’s right for you. Look at how the garnet reacts under light, both natural and synthetic, and check for an intense and saturated color. Remember, garnets commonly come in a wide spectrum of reds, but can also be green, pink, colorless or blue. The price of the piece will likely increase for more rare colors 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 gemstone. It should be noted that some garnets have inclusions that are part of the beauty of the overall gemstone (like “horsetails” in demantoid garnets, or hessonite garnets which sometimes have a “turbulent” look). You may discover that you enjoy the unique look these inclusions bring to the piece. Try to find a cut that spreads light evenly over the surface of the gemstone. This will help to bring out the overall beauty and color of the garnet. No matter which gemstone or piece you choose, remember that the garnet is known for its durability and richness of color, so your investment will not only have great emotional value, but could be a piece that stands the test of time.