Monday, January 8, 2018

Gemstone Highlight: Garnet - January's Birthstone

cut garnets from

What is it?

Garnet, the most well-known red gemstone, comes from the Latin word "granum" meaning "grain." This not only refers to the rounded shape of the garnet crystals, but is also suggestive of the small red seeds of the pomegranate.

Garnets have also been called "carbuncles" relating to the color and refers to a boil or blister.  Used since the Bronze Age, garnets are silicate minerals used as gemstones and abrasives.  There are many forms and varieties of garnets, but the six main garnet types are Almandine, Pyrope, Spessartite, Grossular, Andradite and Uvarovite.  It is the harder species, Almandine, that is used for abrasive purposes.  Garnets can be found in other colors including, yellow, orange, red, blue, brown, purple, black, pink and colorless. The rarest is blue, found in Madagascar in the late 1990s. The color changing garnets - pyrope and spessartite - are often mistaken for Alexandrite.

On the Mohs scale, it has a hardness of 6.5 - 7.5, polishes to a vitreous (glass-like) luster, and if fractured it will produce a conchoidal (shell-like) to uneven split.

This jewelry set features Pink Garnet

Where is it found?

Types of garnet deposits vary by location.  The most notable mines are located in the United States, Russia, Brazil, India, China, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Canada and a few others.  The most valuable come from the Ural Mountains of Russia.

Ancient Uses:

Garnets have been prized for over 5,000 years. Ancient use of garnets is extensive and I have only listed a few interesting notations.

A necklace with garnet beads was found in a grave that dates back to 3000 B.C.  That's a long time, thus proving the durability and hardness of these gemstones.

The bracelet features garnet, ruby, and citrine
The King of Saxony was said to have a garnet that was 465 carets! That's a lot of stone considering one round 10mm garnet is the equivilent of 5.75 carets!

Plato had his portrait engraved on a garnet by a Roman engraver. I wonder how long he had to sit still.

Garnets were also used in the late antique Roman world, and the Migration Period art of the barbarian people who took over the territory of the Western Roman Empire. In a cloisonne technique, garnet was inlaid in gold cells, also known called garnet cloisonne.

In old Spain, where pomegranates were popular, so was the garnet. Spanish astrology used the garnet to represent the sun.

Bohemia was a large source for garnets at one time making it a very rich industry for that country. Bohemian castles and some churches have interiors decorated with these precious gemstones.
Chipita Non-pierced Earrings (Spessartin a type of Garnet)

Current uses:

Besides being an object of beauty, garnets have an industrial use as a good abrasive.  It is a common replacement for silica sand in sand blasting as the grains are rounder and better suited for it. Garnets can also cut steel and other materials when used with water jets.

Garnets are also used for gem identification purposes. A pick up response to a strong magnet separates the garnet from all other naturally transparent gemstones. Susceptibility measurements can also distinguish garnet species.

Care of Garnet Jewelry:

Care of your garnet jewelry is quite simple, with only a few do nots.

DO NOT expose garnet jewelry to extreme temperatures to suddenly.
DO NOT expose your garnet to chemicals, which includes cosmetics and perfumes.  As with most gemstones jewelry, it is suggested that jewels be put on last for this reason.

KJK's Pearls & Gems  Clip on Drop Earrings (Left has garnet) 

DO use warm water and a soft brush, keeping the brush gentle on the stone's surface.
DO use a cotton cloth to pat dry.
DO store it in a dry place separate from other jewelery.

Also, at-home ultrasonic units can clean garnet jewelry with proper care and caution.

Folklore & the Mystic:

Garnets are the traditional birthstone for January and the anniversary stone for the 2nd year of marriage.

During midieval times, garnets were believed to cure depression, relieve liver diseases and protect against nightmares. The Bible refers to Noah's use of a glowing garnet to illuminate the ark, as well as garnet being one of the twelve gems in Aaron's breastplate. The Koran holds that the garnet illuminates the Fourth Heaven of the Moslems. Greeks believed it guarded children from drowning as well as being a potent against poisons.  Greek mythology references garnet as a gift of love and associated with eternity.

Some carried a garnet as a protective talisman, as it was said to warn the wearer of danger, and if the garnet loses is luster, it is a sign of a coming disaster.

There are also beliefs of "garnet blood magjc" with ancient connections to feminine life forces, and therefore believed that only women should wear them. offers over 500 pairs of clip-on earrings in a variety of styles and colors including gemstone, crystal, gold, sterling, nickel-free, hoops, faux pearl, hoop and many, many more!  Site includes FAQ page, style guide, guide to clips, and other helpful pages.