When you hear the word garnet, a beautiful red gemstone is probably what comes to mind. However, don’t be fooled into thinking garnet is a one trick pony - no, the gemstone comes in many different colours, like brilliant green, sumptuous pinks and deep purple. Even a rare blue variety has been discovered, although red continues to be the most abundant colouration available. Did you know that some garnets can even change colour? Yes, they can be one shade under UV light and another colour entirely under incandescent lighting!
Imagine the possibilities for jewellery for every occasion, as garnet beads make a fine necklace that would work draped over a casual grey tee shirt or knotted with a slinky LBD for a dinner date. In jewellery, garnets can be used to great effect cut both as a cabochon or faceted piece. See the true beauty of the gemstone in a pair of perfectly symmetrical studs, or faceted in an Art Deco-style ring.
The chemical composition of garnet is a result of a series of closely related minerals being brought together in metamorphic rock conditions. While there are many types of garnet, there are only six types that are commonly used as gemstones. These are called pyrope, spessartite, uvarovite, almandite and grossularite. There is even a brilliant green variety called a demantoid, which is rarer and more valuable than diamonds!
The gem itself has been found on nearly every continent and has a long standing popularity with jewellers - tombs from Ancient Egypt have been discovered to contain gorgeous garnet necklaces and it was also a favourite of the Romans. Even the nobility in Medieval Europe were fond of it, using it in many different settings such as rings or cloisonné artworks.
Garnets were often used in Victorian lavaliers, with different colours set in a scroll work pendant. These gems are a fantastic way to add a bit of vintage flair to your outfit.
If you’re shopping for presents, garnet is the birthstone for January and makes a delightful gift for those with a birthday at the start of the year. It is also widely accepted as the gemstone representing the second anniversary of marriage, with variations in colour also given on the nineteenth and twenty-fifth anniversaries.
This is due to garnet’s association with the pomegranate in Ancient Roman times. You’ll notice that ‘garnet’ sounds a lot like the ‘-granate’ in pomegranate and many people think this is where the gem got its name from. In Roman mythology, Hades, the king of the Underworld, fell in love with a beautiful young maiden called Persephone. He gifted her the pomegranate seeds so she could be with him for six months of the year and with her mother for the other six months. So pomegranate and garnets become known as gems of eternal and returning love.
It is also a lovely gift for a friend leaving on a trip, as it is said to safeguard the wearer and increase the bonds of friendship on their return.
In spiritual and crystal healing beliefs, the garnet is believed to bring revitalisation and energy to the wearer. It is identifiable with the ‘root’ chakra in the Hindu religion, as it grounds and renews strength. Some mystics also think the gem can be used to access past life memories and protect the wearer from bad energies or nightmares.
Garnet colours are always natural, as heat treatments to enhance them do not work. In fact, synthetic garnets are not generally used in jewellery at all, but rather in industrial situations only.
You can keep your garnet in tip top condition at all times by gently washing it occasionally with warm, soapy water and a soft brush. Make sure to rinse it well after washing and avoid steaming it, along with other dangers such as chemicals, extreme temperatures and hard knocks.
The possibilities for garnet jewellery are endless and the jewel remains as much in demand now as ever before.