Kicking the year off with January’s birthstone – the garnet. Garnets are commonly red but you may not know that they also come in different colours, ranging from yellows, oranges, purples, vibrant green and rarely, blue to purple colour changing.
The word “garnet” comes from the 14th century English ‘gernet’ meaning dark red. This word is derived from the Latin ‘granatum’ meaning “seed”, so-called thanks to the stone’s resemblance to a pomegranate’s red seeds. Garnet actually refers to a group of several minerals and the colour variations of the stones are attributed to certain mineral types. Pyrope and Almandine range from purple to red gems. Spessartine comes in oranges and yellows and Andradite is mostly yellow to green (the gem variety of which is called demantoid and comes in a vibrant grass green colour) There is also Grossular mineral which ranges from colourless, through yellows and orangy reds as well as another vibrant green gem variety called tsavorite.
Remnants of garnet jewellery have been discovered dating as far back as the Bronze age. Even slightly further back to 3100 BC, references to the Egyptians using garnet in jewellery and carvings have been found. They were used as a talisman for protection by warriors going into battle or those wanting to ward off pestilence, plague, inflammatory diseases or to soothe an angry heart. Some ancient healers would place garnets in wounds due to their perceived healing powers. Garnets were often used in signet rings in ancient Rome to stamp important documents. They were particularly popular during the Victorian era and a lot of jewellery from this era emulates its pomegranate namesake by clustering tiny gems in a larger piece.
Different regions around the world are known for their particular varieties of garnet. Namibia is known for the bright green demantoids, while tsavorites are mostly from Kenya, Tanzania and Madagascar. Both Namibia and Tanzania are also key sources for orange and yellow spessartine gems. Garnet can also be found in Myanmar, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, amongst other countries.
Garnets range between 6.5-7.5 on the Moh’s scale. While it is more susceptible to damage than rubies, sapphires and diamonds, it is a more durable choice than opals and pearls. Not all are suitable for daily wear but are ideal for earrings or pendants. They should be stored carefully so as not to be scratched by harder gems and gentle cleaning with a soft brush and warm soapy water will keep your garnet looking its best.
We can source garnets in many colours and origins (even Australian). To make a start, get in touch with us today.