January Birthstone: Garnet
Garnet meaning and history
The origin of the name goes back to Medieval Latin where “granatus” means pomegranate, a direct reference to the colour. Garnet is said to bring the wearer good health, wealth and happiness and has been used in jewellery as far back as the bronze age. They were also popular with the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. The ancient Romans carved them to make intaglios for signet rings, which were used to seal important documents. The clergy and nobility of the Middle Ages loved to use impressively large red garnets in their jewellery. To counter the dark colour of these large gems, they were often hollowed out to let more light through the gem - these glowing gems were called carbuncles.
Garnet is actually a grouping of several related minerals. The five that are used in jewellery today are: pyrope, almandine, spessartine, grossular and andradite. Pyrope and almandine range from purple to red. Spessartine is found in strong oranges and yellows, while andradite is mostly yellow to green (for example the gem variety demantoid). Grossular garnets probably have the widest range of colours: from colourless through yellow to reddish orange and orangy red. And if you like emeralds you should certainly keep an eye out for the strong vibrant green called Tsavorite.
Where is garnet found?
With so many different varieties it is no surprise that garnets are found in many different countries and regions. For example the small red pyrope garnets that were so popular in Victorian jewellery were found mainly in Bohemia. Nowadays it is African that is the main supply of garnet. Namibia produces stunning green demantoid garnet, and bright green tsavorites come from Kenya, Tanzania and Madagascar. Namibia and Tanzania also hold the key finds of the rich orange-to-yellow spessartine garnets. Other locations producing garnets are Myanmar, Brazil, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, among other countries.
Garnet care and cleaning
Garnet is a relatively hardy gem, with the different types of garnet ranging between 6.5 and 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. That means it is typically less hard-wearing than rubies, sapphires and diamonds, but still a great candidate for earrings, brooches and pendants. They also work well as occasion rings, though garnets worn in everyday rings may need to be touched up over the years to restore their colour and lustre.
When storing your gem set jewellery it is a good idea to group gems by their hardness so that they don’t damage each other. To keep your garnets safe, consider storing them separately from harder gems like diamonds, rubies and sapphire. Also keep your garnets away from softer gems like opals or pearls.
Most garnets are not treated* and therefore easy to care for at home. A short soak in hand warm soapy water and soft brush will get rid of built up dirt or grime behind the gems. Ultrasonic cleaners are usually safe, except for stones that have fractures or have been treated by fracture filling.
*Rarely, some garnets might be fracture filled. The clarity of a garnet with good colour but many surface-reaching breaks may be filled with a glass-like substance, thereby dramatically improving the appearance of the gem. Such treated stones require special care and should not be put in an ultrasonic cleaner.
At DesignYard you will find a tantalizing variety of contemporary garnet jewellery. Whether you’re looking for a meaningful gift for a January birthday, or maybe a gemstone to celebrate your 2nd wedding anniversary, you’re sure to find something suitable here.
Click here to see the current selection on our website or click the button below to book your appointment to view the pieces in the gallery.