Birthstone Guide: Garnet For Those Born In January

If you're lucky enough to be born in January then the beautiful, bright and vibrant garnet is your birthstone. A rainbow jewel of the gem world, garnet displays the greatest variety of colour of any mineral and is one of the very few untreated gems in the industry.

With a paint palette of shades, varieties and hues, garnet is also recognised for its rich history and lore and was a favoured gem of many historic eras, including royalty of the Victorian times, pharaohs of Ancient Egypt as well as Ancient Romans.


Demantoid garnet with clear horsetail inclusions. Image by Pat Daly.

Colours of garnet

Garnet is commonly seen in a striking spectrum of red, from orange rust, deep-violet to rich royal reds reminiscent of a pomegranate fruit. The term 'garnet' comes from the name "gernet", a 14th Century Middle English word meaning dark red, further deriving from the Latin 'granatum' meaning 'pomegranate'. This connection is made due to the resemblance of garnet crystals to the seeds and rich red colour of the fruit. Garnet is a term for a group of minerals found in various colours from the red Pyrope garnet to the zesty green Tsavorite garnet.

The range of garnet colours comes from trace metals such as manganese, iron or chromium. Variations in chemical composition between different species of garnet result in a range of hardness from 6.5-7.5.

Polariscope garnet peridotite. Image by Pat Daly.

Left: Spessartine garnet with feather inclusions. Right: Hessonite garnet with crystal inclusions. Images by Pat Daly.

Types of garnet

There are five main species of garnet that have the same crystal structure but slight differences in their chemical composition.

  • Almandine: purple to orangey reds
  • Pyrope: purples to orangey reds
  • Spessartine: oranges to yellows
  • Andradite: yellows to yellowish greens
  • Grossularite: colourless to yellow, to orangey red, to vibrant green (rare)

 

Where do they come from?

Garnets are commonly found in many countries worldwide, including Australia, India, Czech Republic, Myanmar, Brazil and Sri Lanka to name a few. In the 19th Century, garnet adorned many decorative creations of jeweller Peter Carl Fabergé and was a gem highly favoured by the Russian royal family. Bohemia and Russia were documented as primary locations of sourcing garnet throughout the 19th Century whereas today, Tanzania and Namibia are prized for their abundance in garnets.

Close up of a demantoid garnet with horsetail inclusions. Image by Pat Daly.

Garnet history and Ancient Folklore

Garnet has an extensive history and rich ancient folklore that spreads across many eras. Legend has it that garnet - known as the "Gem of faith" - has powers of good health, prosperity and peace and those that wear it and do good, are further rewarded with good will. The bright and striking nature of garnet is thought to be fitting to the vibrant personalities of those born in the month of January. It is thought that individuals who wear this stone can enter the New Year with a sense of renewed purpose, hope and lasting happiness.

This gemstone has also been used as a talisman of victory and protection by those going into battle. Many warriors would wear this stone to ward off disease and poverty and would place it on their battle wounds as a catalyst for healing. Historical reference dates garnet even further back to the time of Egyptians, who utilised this stone as inlays in their jewellery and decorative carvings as a symbol of life. Garnet was also a popular choice for signet rings worn by the Ancient Romans; additionally carved into intaglios to seal important documents. Hailed for its health benefits, garnet continued to be prized amongst clergy and nobility throughout history.


Garnet from Mali. Image by Pat Daly.

Today, garnet is used in a wide range of jewellery collections and bespoke pieces such as rings, statement pendants as well as tiaras. Its array of colour and transparency make for spectacular pieces of considerable value.

One of the most famous examples of garnet jewellery to date is the Smithsonian Pyrope Hair Comb from the Victorian era. The pyrope garnets that embellish the tiara-shaped comb surrounded the central stone crest, originate from the Bohemian mines (now part of the Czech Republic). These rose-cut garnets were often mounted in gold plate or yellow gold; a popular style during the Victorian era, when this piece was fashioned.

Whether you are looking for a talisman of prosperity for 2018 or buying a gift for someone born in January, the fire and sparkle of each unique garnet gemstone will hold great emotional value and remain a piece of timeless beauty.

 A malayan garnet with rutile needle inclusions. Image by Pat Daly.

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image: Almandine garnet with crystal inclusions. Image by Pat Daly ©Gem-A.


Hidden Treasures: Highlights of Gem-A's Gemstones and Minerals Collection

Hidden Treasures: Highlights of Gem-A's Gemstones and Minerals Collection

Gem-A Gemmology Tutor Pat Daly FGA DGA offers us a glimpse at some of the more unusual items in Gem-A's Gemstones and Minerals Collection.

Read more


Tanzanite: The Contemporary December Birthstone

Tanzanite: The Contemporary December Birthstone

Are you looking for the perfect festive gift for a December baby? Gem-A tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG considers tanzanite – one of three birthstones for December – and shares how this relatively new gemstone compares to its purple and blue-hued rivals.

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Turquoise For Those Born In December

Birthstone Guide: Turquoise For Those Born In December

Beautiful blue turquoise is one of three birthstones for the month of December (in addition to zircon and tanzanite). It is enriched with real cultural significance that can be traced back thousands of years. Here, we explore the blue shades of turquoise and explain what makes this gemstone so special...

Read more


Understanding the Cat's Eye Effect in Gemstones

Understanding the Cat's Eye Effect in Gemstones

Chatoyancy is the gemmological name given to the curious optical effect in which a band of light is reflected in cabochon-cut gemstones, creating an appearance similar to light bouncing off a cat's eye. Gem-A's Collection Curator, Barbara Kolator FGA DGA explains chatoyancy and highlights some of the many gems in which it can occur.

Read more


Jade and its Importance in China

Jade and its Importance in China

Jade has long been revered by gem lovers internationally, but nowhere more so than in China. But what is it that makes this gemstone so special? Gem-A's Assistant Gemmology Tutor Dr Juliette Hibou FGA gives us an overview of jade, how to identify it and its significance in Chinese culture.

Read more


Highlights of Gem-A Conference 2019

Highlights of Gem-A Conference 2019

The Gem-A Conference is always the highlight of our gemmological calendar! If you didn’t manage to make it, we’ve put together a few of the highlights from this year’s event to fill you in on what you missed, and whet your appetite for Gem-A Conference 2020!

Read more


The Colours of Topaz: November Birthstone

The Colours of Topaz: November Birthstone

Topaz is most often associated with the colours yellow, orange, blue and pink, but it can also be colourless, green and brown. Find out more about the second birthstone of November, here. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Citrine for Those Born in November

Birthstone Guide: Citrine for Those Born in November

As we enter the dark winter months, November’s birthstone citrine offers rays of warm yellow-orange sunshine. Here, gemmology tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores the properties and folklore around this sunny gemstone.

Read more