Garnet is January’s birthstone. Garnets symbolize eternal friendship, loyalty and a light heart. There is evidence of garnet jewelry found in Bronze age burials in Eastern Europe. Garnet jewelry has been discovered in ancient Egypt and Sumeria. Garnets were treasured in jewelry by the Greek and Roman cultures as well as Pre-Columbian Aztec and Native American cultures. In Medieval times, garnets were thought to possess medicinal powers and were thought to protect one from poisons, wounds and bad dreams. They were thought to relieve fevers, hemorrhages and inflammatory diseases.
All garnets have the same cubic crystal structure, but can vary in their chemical composition. There are five species of garnets that are used in jewelry. Pyrope and almandite range in color from purple to orangey red. Spessartite garnets are found in oranges and yellows. Andradite garnet is found in yellow and yellowish green, Grossularite garnet has the largest range of color from colorless, yellows, reddish orange to orangey red and vibrant greens. Some garnets are a combination of two species such as rhodolite, which is a mixture of pyrope and almandite.
Red garnets are the most common. Rhodolite garnet is the most desired and valuable of the red garnets. Rhodolite garnets are vibrant purplish red. Rhodolite was first discovered in North Carolina in the 1880’s from alluvial deposits. East Africa is the most important source today.
Fine quality green garnets are rare and valuable gems. Tsavorite garnet, a grossularite garnet variety was discovered in the 1960’s in East Africa. These garnets are unusually vibrant and a lovely shade of grass green. Most tsavorite garnets are small due to the fact that it rarely occurs in well formed crystals but is mostly found in irregular nodules. Large crystals are rare making large tsavorite gemstones very valuable. Demantoid garnets is another green variety that is rare as well and are very valuable garnets. These gems are yellowish green to an intense green.
Spessartite garnet is an orange variety of garnets. They can range from a yellowish orange to a rich reddish orange. Hessonite garnets are orange to a cinnamon color and can be more included than other varieties of garnet.
There are garnets in a wide range of colors to suit anyone’s tastes and are a great gemstone for rings, necklaces or earrings.