Garnet is the birthstone for January, and is also used to celebrate second wedding anniversaries.
Is it a real gemstone?
Yes. In fact, the term ‘garnet’ represents a whole family of gemstones.
Many people envision garnets as purple-red stones. It’s not surprising really, since red garnets (like the ones in the Mushroom Birthstone Earrings pictured below) are found on every continent, and the word “garnet” comes from the Latin word granatus meaning seed or grain – most likely referring to a pomegranate seed.
Garnets can be found in a wide variety of colours – many of which have specific terms associated with them. For example, pyrope and almandine garnets are red to purplish-red, demantoid and tsavorite garnets are rare and green, and spessartine garnets are orange.
There are more than 20 species of garnet, but only 5 used as gemstones in jewellery: pyrope, almandine, spessartine, grossular and andradite. Pyrope and almandine garnets are commonly just labelled “Garnet”.
Fun fact: Many garnets are actually made up of a chemical mixture of 2 or more garnet species.
History of Garnet
In ancient times, garnets, along with other red gemstones, were called ‘carbuncles,’ and were prized. Egyptian pharaohs wore intricate necklaces of red garnet. The Greeks and Romans prized it as jewellery and cut it for signet rings.
Pick a century, from the middle kingdoms of Egypt right up to modern times and, chances are, you’ll find a specimen ornamented with garnet in the collections of the British museum. In ancient Rome, red garnet was among the most traded gemstones. In 1500, the discovery of new deposits in central Europe sparked the advent of a significant industry. It thrived for almost four hundred years.
Garnet Mythology and Lore
Garnet is associated with love, friendship, light, and vitality.
Garnets were seen as stones of protection. Legend has it that King Solomon wore them into battle. Saxon and Celtic kings wore them for the same reason, and Native American peoples also believed they protected against injury and poisons. Royalty also adorned themselves in garnet
It was carried by travellers as protection against harm.
Because of the traditional colour of garnets, they’ve long been associated with blood and circulation, but also creativity and life force, particularly feminine life force.
Modern crystal practitioners retain many of these associations. Garnet is seen as an energy stone and a stone of protection. It’s viewed as lucky, a gem that encourages balance and inspires creativity.
The various colours and types of garnet are also associated with more specific specialties. Garnet is seen as useful in cleaning and energizing all the chakras.
How to care for garnets
On the Mohs scale of hardness, garnets range from 6.5 to 7.5, making them softer and more susceptible to damage than rubies, sapphires or diamonds. Garnets make excellent long-lasting additions to earrings and pendants.
With this in mind, take care how you store your garnet jewellery. To avoid scratches and damage, store garnet pieces separately.
A best practice is to store each piece of jewellery you have in its own compartment.
Finally, it is always safe to clean garnet jewellery with a soft make-up brush and warm soapy water.
“Gemstones of the World” by Walter Schumann, Sterling New York, Fifth Edition