GARNET IS BIRTH STONE OF JANUARY
COLORFUL WORLD OF GARNETS
Garnets -- aren’t these the wonderfully deep red gemstones which are often found in
antique jewellery? Well, this is only the partial truth, as a warm and deep red is indeed
the most frequently occurring colour for Garnets. But unfortunately only few people
know that the realm of Garnets holds many more bright and beautiful colours. The
traditional image of Garnet has been brightly transformed by spectacular founds, mainly
from Africa. Although red remains the major colour, Garnets today easily adapt to any
new colour trend in fashion due to the rich range available. And because of the new
founds, there are reliable sources for steady supply in these fancy colours. All this
explains why this very gemstone family manages to keep on providing new impulses for
the jewellery events in our days.
An expert will understand "Garnet” as the denomination for a group of over ten different
gemstones with a similar chemical structure. Although the colour red is the one which
occurs most frequently, there are also Garnets showing different shades of green, pale
to bright yellow, fiery orange and fine earth- and umbra-shades. Only blue is a colour
which is not available in Garnet. Garnets are gemstones which are in high demand and
are often worked into pieces of jewellery - especially since today not only the traditional
gemstone colours red, blue and green are cherished by the consumer, but the
intermediate shades and hues are also very popular. Besides the realm of Garnets also
possesses rarities such as asterism or atones which change their colour from daylight
to artificial light.
What else characterises this gemstone family? First of all, there is the excellent hardness
of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs’ scale. This applies, with minor variations, to all the members of
the Garnet group. And this is also an explanation why these gemstones are so excellent
to wear. Garnets are quite sturdy and resistant to everyday wear and tear, and
uncomplicated to work into jewellery. Only to hard impact or uncontrolled heating they
will react adversely. Another point in favour of Garnets is their high refraction of light, the
reason for the amazing brilliance of Garnets. The shape of the rough crystal is also
interesting. Garnet, after all, means something like "the grainy” and is derived from the
Latin word "granum” meaning "grain”. This refers to the typically rounded shape of
Garnet and also reminds of the seeds of the pomegranate. In the middle ages, Garnet
was also called "karfunkel” in German, referring to the glowing red reminding of the
sparks of fire. Today there are a lot of imaginative names used in the trade, such as
Arizona Ruby, Arizona Spinel, Montana Ruby or New Mexico Ruby.
The Garnet illuminated already Noah’s Ark
Garnets have been widely known for thousands of years. Even Noah, it is reported, used
a lantern from Garnet in order to safely steer his Ark through the darkness of the night.
Garnets are found in jewellery from ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman eras. Many
courageous discoverers and travellers wore Garnets for protection, as they were
considered popular talismans and protective stones, because it was believed in those
days that Garnets illuminate the night and prevent their wearer from any sort of evil.
Today science explained to us that the proverbial luminosity of Garnet is caused by its
high refraction of light.
Garnets come not onlyy in many colours but also under many names: Andradite,
Demantoid, Grossularite, Hessonite, Pyrope, Rhodolith, Tsavorith, Spessartine,
Uwarowite etc.. Let us focus on the most important ones, and let us start with red
Garnets. First of all, there is fiery red Pyrope. Its fierce and often slightly bronze coloured
red was highly popular as gemstone colour in the 18th and 19th century. Worldwide
renowned in those days were the Bohemian Garnets from an occurrence in the north-
eastern part of the former Kingdom of Bohemia - small stones in a wonderful colour. In
Europe they were frequently used for jewellery in Victorian times. This genuine
Bohemian Garnet jewellery is traditionally decorated with many small stones which are
tightly arranged along each other like the seeds of a pomegranate. Today Garnet is still
found in the Czech Republic, and the stones are still arranged in the traditional way,
tightly joined, so that the attraction of the classical Garnet jewellery is caused by the
beauty of the stones only.
The large central stones of the typical "rosette" arrangements are usually also Garnets,
but these come from another category. Almandines, named after the ancient gemstone
city of Alabanda in Asia Minor, are c a little different in their chemical structure from
Pyropes. Why these are preferred as central stones? Well, Nature only grows Pyropes in
small sizes, but allows for Almandine crystals in larger dimensions.
Another red Garnet variety is Rhodolith, a crystal mixture from Almandine and Pyrope
This popular red Garnet shows a wonderful velvety red with a fine purple or raspberry
coloured undertone. Originally discovered in the USA, it is mainly found in gemstone
mines in East Africa, India and Sri Lanka nowadays.
Colourful World of Garnets
The fantastic found of an up to then extremely rare Garnet variety puzzled experts all
over the world some years ago. On the Kunene river, on the border between Namibia
and Angola, there was the surprising and spectacular discovery of bright orange to red
Spessartine Garnets, which were originally named after their occurrence in the German
Spessart mountains. Until the legendary mine was discovered in Namibia, Spessartines
had existed as mere collector’s items or rarities. They were hardly ever used for jewellery
because they were so rare. But the found changed the world of jewellery gemstones.
From this time on, an exceptionally fine and brightly orange-red gemstone has
completed the offered range. The trade name "Mandarine -Garnet” was coined, and the
wonderfully orange coloured Fine Garnet became world-famous almost over night.
Unfortunately the mine in the remote Namibian mountains could only be exploited for a
few years. Prospecting for the gemstones in the isolated bush land became more and
more complicated and expensive It had to be expected, then , that the very upstart
among the quality gemstones would only be available in limited amounts from the
stocks of few cutters. However, another sensation was caused by discovering another
occurrence of the orange-coloured treasures, this time in Nigeria. In colour and brilliance
they are so similar to the Namibian stones that only experienced experts will be able to
tell them apart.
And now let us focus on green Garnets. Green Garnets - do they really exist? Of course!
There are even several known green Garnet varieties. First of all, there is Grossularite,
which was created by Nature in many fine colours from yellow to green and brown, and
which is especially cherished because of the many in-between shades. And earth-
colours. Here there was also a sensational found: In the last year of the 20th century
large Grossularite occurrences were discovered in Mali. The Mali Garnets are charming
because of their high brilliance, which makes even the usually not so popular brown
colour attractive and vivid, and the natural appeal is in wonderful harmony especially
with ethno-look inspired trends.
Possibly the most famous green Garnet is Tsavorith or Tsavolith, another Grossularite.
Tiffany’s in New York re-named the stone which had been discovered in 1967 by British
geologist Campbell R. Bridges in North-East Tanzania. The emerald-green stone was
named after its occurrence near the famous game park Tsavo-National Park. Tsavorith is
of a vivid light to velvety deep green and, like all other Garnets, of strikingly high
The star among green Garnets is rare Demantoid, a gemstone for connoisseurs and
lovers. It shows enormous brilliance, higher even than that of Diamond. Russia’s leading
court jeweller Carl Fabergé loved the brilliant green Garnet from the Urals more than any
other stone, and liked to use it in his creations. Nowadays Demantoid turns up more
often in the gemstone market because of the new founds in Namibia. Demantoids from
Namibia show good colour and brilliance, however, they lack s minor characteristic: the
so-called "horsetail-inclusions”, fine bushy-shaped inclusions which are the
characteristic birthmark identifying Russian Demantoids.
Gemstone Colours for each Fashion Trend
If you love the immaculate naturalness and sun-drenched warm colours of Indian
summer, you will fall in love with range of colours displayed by Garnets. Today these
stones come mainly from African countries, also from India, Russia, central and south
America. The skilled hands of cutters all over the world shape them in many classical
forms and more and more also in modern fancy designer’s cuts. Garnets appeal
generally because of their natural and not manipulated beauty, their wide variety of
colours and their magnificent brilliance. If you buy Garnet jewellery you can be certain to
enjoy this gemstone gift from Nature permanently and without inhibitions.
***Information about gems on this page provided by international colored gemstone association website.
For more information please visit www.gemstone.org.