January Birthstone – Garnet
January’s birthstone is the Garnet. A gem found around the world, garnet comes in a wide selection of colours. So there’s bound to be a hue to suit your taste.
The word “garnet” comes from the 14th Century Middle English word “gernet” meaning dark red. The word is derived from Latin “granatum” which means seed, and is called so because of the gemstone’s resemblance to the beautifully red seeds of the pomegranate.
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. Some rare garnets are even blue, colourless, or—most rare of all—change colours in different lights. But the most common colour is a beautiful range of reds, from rust coloured to deep violet-red.
The garnet is so durable (6.5-7.5 on the Mohs scale), remnants of garnet jewellery can be found as far back as the Bronze Age. Other references go back to 3100 BC when the Egyptians used garnet as inlays in their jewellery and carvings. The Egyptians even said it was the symbol of life. The garnet was very popular with the Romans in the 3rd and 4th Century.
The folklore on garnet is extensive. Legend has it that the garnet can bring peace, prosperity and good health to the home. Some even called it the “Gem of Faith,” and it’s believed that to those who wear it and do good, more good will come. However, it was also said to bring very bad fortune to those who commit bad acts while wearing it.
Garnets can be found all over the world, including Wyoming, Czech Republic, Greece, Russian, Tanzania, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and India.
How to Buy Garnet
If you’re looking to purchase a garnet for yourself or a loved one, it is a great way to celebrate friendship, toast a 2nd wedding anniversary or recognise the wearer’s January birthday.
When buying, look at how the garnet reacts under light, both natural and synthetic and check for an intense, saturated colour. Remember, garnets commonly come in a wide spectrum of reds, but can also be green, pink, colourless or blue. The price of the piece will likely increase for more rare colours like green or blue.
Types of Garnets – Garnet is a group of minerals that have the same crystal structure but slight differences in chemical composition. Five members of this group are commercially important as gems are:
Pyrope (purple to orangey red)
Almandine (purple to orangey red)
Spessartine (oranges and yellows)
Grossularite (colourless to yellow, to reddish orange and orangey red, to vibrant green)
Andradite (yellow and yellowish green)
There are also mixtures of these five species, creating even more colours. Variations in trace elements such as iron, manganese, chromium and vanadium produce the kaleidoscopic colour range of garnets.
Clarity – Garnet clarity depends on its type. The red garnets almandine, pyrope and rhodolite typically do not have eye-visible inclusions. Some of the orange garnets, like spessartine and hessonite, often have eye-visible inclusions. You can use this information to rule out particular gems. For example, you might not want to purchase red garnets that have eye-visible inclusions or you may discover that you like the unique look these inclusions bring to the piece.
Cut – Try to find a cut that spreads light evenly over the surface of the gemstone. This will help to bring out the overall beauty and colour of the garnet. Many garnets are cut into standard shapes and sizes for easy setting into jewellery. This is especially true of many red garnets. Expensive garnets like fine-quality tsavorite are cut into shapes and cutting styles that allow more of the weight to be retained from the rough.
Carat Weight – Garnets can be found in all sizes and weights. Some garnets, like demantoid and tsavorite, are more commonly found as small crystals, so their value goes up significantly with size. Other garnets, like almandine, occur as larger crystals, so there’s no dramatic rise in value as size increases.