January represents the start of the new year. What better time to surprise someone you love with a beautiful new piece of jewelry? For those celebrating birthdays this month, a piece of garnet birthstone jewelry makes a perfect gift. With a protective setting, garnet can also stand out as a unique engagement ring. Here is what sets this gemstone apart from all the rest.
Garnet History and Lore
Garnet is a durable stone, and archaeologists have found remnants of garnet jewelry dating all the way back to the Bronze Age. In ancient Egypt, garnets graced the tombs of mummified pharaohs, and the ancient Romans used the stone to stamp wax seals on important documents. In the Bible, the garnet was one of the twelve gems in Aaron’s breastplate. Christian tradition considered the blood-red garnet as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice.
The word garnet evolved from the Middle English word gernet, meaning dark red, which derived from the Latin word granatum, or seed — a reference to the bright red seeds of the pomegranate.
Garnet is actually a group name for the silicate minerals Almandine, Pyrope, Spessartine, Grossular, Andradite, Mozambique and Uvarovite, which share a similar chemical composition and cubic crystalline structure.
Red is the most common color for garnet, but the gem can be found in a variety of hues including green, yellow, orange, brown, pink, purple, gray, black, clear and blue — the rarest hue. In some cases, blue garnets can even appear to change color under different lighting, much like Alexandrite.
The most common red garnets are Almandine and Pyrope. Amandine typically is more opaque and has more inclusions than Pyrope, which is often found in kimberlite pipes in proximity to diamonds.
Rhodolite, a pinkish, raspberry red or purple-red garnet, is a mix of Almandine and Pyrope. Rhodolite takes its name from the Greek word, rhodon, meaning “rose-colored.”
Demantoid, a rare green andradite garnet, was discovered in 1868 in Russia’s western central Ural Mountains. Demantoid demonstrates such fire and brilliance that it takes its name from the French demant, meaning diamond. Demantoid garnets might have eye-visible inclusions called horsetails that can raise their value.
Tsavorite, a clear green Grossular garnet is often mistaken for emerald but typically has fewer inclusions. First discovered in Kenya in 1967, Tsavorite was named in honor of the African nation’s Tsavo East National Park.
Spessartite (or Spessartine) garnet takes its name from the town of Spessart, Bavaria, where it was discovered in the mid-1800’s. Ranging in hue from pure orange to reddish orange, brownish orange or yellowish orange, this garnet variety has become more popular since the 1990s, when miners found new deposits in Africa.
Garnet is said to represent peace, prosperity and good health. It has also been used to symbolize lasting friendship, making it the perfect gift for someone you love. In addition to being the birthstone for January, garnet is also the traditional gift for a second wedding anniversary.
Choosing a Garnet
Garnets follow the same classification criteria as diamonds, basing the quality of the stone on color, cut clarity and carat weight. As with most colored gemstones, color is the predominant factor in determining value. Clarity depends on the garnet variety. For example, Pyrope, Tsavorite and Rhodolite garnets typically have no eye-visible inclusions, while Demantoid and Spessartite garnets may have more inclusions.
Red garnets are the most affordable, as they are the most common, but you can find these gems in virtually any color. Because they are rarer, shades of green and blue are typically more expensive. No matter what shade you prefer, look for an intense, saturated color, and be sure to check how it looks under both natural and artificial light.
Find the Perfect Garnet at Worthington Jewelers
Regardless of whether you choose to wear a garnet in a ring, necklace, or earrings, this gemstone is perfect for those celebrating January birthdays or who enjoy the rich color and variety of the gem. With a hardness of 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale, garnet is relatively durable and suitable for frequent wear. Because it is significantly softer than diamond, sapphire or ruby, however, garnet is not typically used as an engagement ring center stone. However, if your heart is set on a garnet engagement ring, our associates can help you choose a protective setting and advise you on how to pamper your garnet jewelry to prolong its life.
At Worthington Jewelers, you can choose from loose gems and finished garnet jewelry in a variety of styles — many one of a kind. Our associates will be happy to show you the pieces we currently have in stock, or you can work with our designers to create custom jewelry for yourself or that special someone in your life. Stop by our shop today to browse through our selection.