Birthstone January - Garnet

Garnet has been the birthstone for the month of January since the 15th century, and added to the modern list of birthstones in 1912 by the National Association of Jewellers.

The name “garnet” comes from the Latin word “Garanatus,” meaning “seedlike", referring to the gem's bright red stones, much like the seeds of a pomegranate.

The pomegranate is a symbolic fruit, signifying beauty, eternal love, fertility, birth and rebirth. And so it is that Garnet has become associated with these attributes. 

Garnet is perhaps the most compassionate of birthstones. Touted as a gift of love, garnet serves as a suitable anniversary present. Its deep red hue makes it inherently romantic, which is why many opt for gem when attempting to establish intimacy.

Garnets however come in many different varieties and colours. The two most common are the transparent dark red forms of Almandine and a rose-red to violet variety of Pyrope, better known as Rhodolite.  More rare and therefore expensive are the colour-changing variety and the green hues of Tsavorite and Demantoid.  You'll find these different varieties within our own Garnet collection.

 

 A little bit of history

The garnet has been a popular gem throughout history, thought to date back to 3000 BC when a necklace featuring garnet beads was discovered worn by a young man in a grave.

In ancient times, garnet was known as ”Carbuncle,” which was a term used to describe precious stones of a red colour - resembling the colour of a boil or blister.

Bohemia, in the westernmost region of the present-day Czech Republic, was once a tremendous source of garnet. Many Bohemian castles and churches had magnificent interiors decorated with garnet. 

Garnet was also popular in Old Spain, with its inhabitants believing that the gem was as mighty and prevalent as the sun. 

 

A little bit of science

Garnet is actually a group name for the silicate minerals almandine, pyrope, spessartine, grossular, andradite, mozambique and uvarovite. The garnet is therefore a more diverse gem than its name suggests.

All of these garnet minerals share similar cubic crystal structure and chemical composition. Garnet is best known in a deep red variety but is commonly found in orange-brown and wine-red shades. A flawless, clear green garnet (called a demantoid), is one of the most beautiful and expensive gems in existence. 

Garnet ranges between 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness depending on the variety. 

Garnet is one of the few untreated gems and its always natural. Heat treatments, irradiation and other enhancements have proved ineffective.

 

A little bit about mining and production

Garnets are relatively common in highly metamorphic and some igneous rocks. The gem has also been found in small sand particles on many beaches. Africa, India, Russia, South America, Madagascar, Pakistan, and the United States are all sources of the gem.

Today, the Mozambique variety of garnet is quite popular. Originating in the East African nation they are named after, Mozambique garnets are known for their high quality and wonderfully warm, red colours. Mozambique garnet is a mixture of pyrope and almandine garnet, similar in colour to rhodolite garnet, but slightly more red, and darker.

 

A little bit of folklore and symbolism

Throughout time, there have been many ancient traditions and legends about the garnet.  In medieval times, the symbolism of colour played a very important part in the use of particular stones for special diseases.  In the case of red stones, they were thought to be remedies for haemorrhages of all kinds, as well as for inflammatory diseases. Garnet was also though to relieve skin conditions and regulate the heart and blood.

According to legend, Noah used a finely cut, glowing garnet to illuminate the ark during those dark wet days and nights. Hebrew writers include the garnet as one of the twelve gems in Aaron’s breastplate.

Christian tradition considered the blood-red garnet as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. The Koran holds that the garnet illuminates the Fourth Heaven of the Moslems. 

In Greek Mythology, Garnet symbolizes a quick return to a separated love. Legend states that Hades gifted a pomegranate to Persephone before she left his domain to ensure a speedy and safe return. When she did return, the fruit transformed into a handful of the red gemstones.  Therefore, Garnet may be given to a beloved before embarking on a trip, as it is believed to heal the broken bonds of lovers.

It has been said that a garnet engraved with the figure of a lion is an all around effective charm that will protect and preserve health, cure the wearer of all disease, bring him honours, and guard him from all the possible perils in traveling. It was also said to warn the wearer of approaching danger and was long ago carried as a protective talisman. 

There are also many beliefs in the power garnet has over mental health, inspiring contemplation and truthfulness, and in protecting one's standing and possessions. Perhaps the strongest said virtue of the garnet, is in overcoming depression, bringing serenity and a calming influence to its wearer. It strengthens the survival instinct in a crisis, or in extremely traumatic situations, bringing courage and hope where it seems like there is no way out. 

 

15 fascinating facts about Garnet

1. The King of Saxony is said to have had a garnet of over 465 carats. Plato took it one step further when he had his portrait engraved on a garnet by a Roman engraver.

2. Not all garnets are red. Garnet is actually the name of a group of minerals that comes in a rainbow of colours, from the deep red of the Pyrope garnet to the vibrant green of Tsavorites.

3. Whilst the garnet has a long history as a gemstone,  it has also proved to have industrial uses, most notably as an effective abrasive

4. Some garnets have inclusions that are part of the beauty of the overall stone such as  “horsetails” in Demantoid garnets.

5. The garnet is so durable, remnants of garnet jewellery can be found as far back as the Bronze Age. 

6. If you want to give Garnet as a gift, consider it for a second, sixth or nineteenth wedding anniversary.  It is the traditional stone for all these occasions.

7. Almost all garnets are sold without any additional treatments, which is ideal for people who want natural gemstones without paying a fortune.

8. The former Czechoslovakia was one of the largest garnet jewellery producers and manufacturers from the 14th through to 19th centuries.  

9.  Bohemian garnets were popular in the Victorian era and fashioned into marvellous cluster pieces.

10. While garnet has been used in jewellery for thousands of years, it is only in the last 150 years that it's been used for industrial purposes.  One of its first uses was as an abrasive, with Henry Hudson Barton manufacturing garnet-coated sandpaper in 1878.

11. In Kashmir in 1892, the Hunzas used garnet bullets to fight the British, in the belief that garnets were deadlier than lead.

12. Low-grade garnet is still used today as a highly effective abrasive. When mixed with water, it has the ability to cut through materials like steel

13. Red garnet necklaces adorned the necks of Ancient Egypt’s pharaohs, and were entombed with their mummified corpses as prized possessions for the afterlife.

14. In ancient Rome, signet rings with carved garnets were used to stamp the wax that secured important documents.

15. Legend has it that garnet made it on board Noah’s Ark. Noah used garnet to illuminate the dark waters on which he voyaged. By cutting the stone into fine pieces, the gem was able to glow in the night.

Caring for your Garnet Jewellery

You can clean your garnet with warm soapy water and a soft brush. Always make sure you rinse the stone well after washing it. Ultrasonic treatments may also be used for any garnets except the demantoid variety.

Do not steam clean your garnet. As with other stones, one should take care of their garnet and protect it from sharp blows, harsh temperatures and chemicals.