Garnet: The Gem for All Seasons
Garnet, the birthstone for January, is one of the most
versatile stones on the market. It comes in a rainbow
of colors, from deep red to tangerine orange to lime
green to pale pink, as well as purple, gold and brown.
The name garnet most likely was derived from the pomegranate,
a fruit whose deep red-purple color resembles some varieties
of garnet. Many ancient pieces of garnet jewelry are
studded with tiny red gems that look like a cluster
of pomegranate seeds.
Garnet is found all over the world, including Africa,
Australia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North America,
South America and Southeast Asia. There are garnets that
change color in different light, translucent green garnets
that look like jade, and garnets that display a faint
four-rayed star. Even though this exciting gem has been
mined for thousands of years, new deposits have been found
in the last decade.
This stone is actually part of a family of gems with
mineral and color differences which include rhodolite,
malaya, demantoid, grossular, hessonite, spessartite,
almandine, mandarin, and combinations of these varieties.
Almandine, the most common type, is dark red to brownish
red. Pyrope is blood red. Rhodolite, one of the most
popular varieties, ranges from pink to purplish red
and is mined in Africa, India and Sri Lanka. Malaya,
a mixed variety found in Tanzania and Kenya, ranges
from orange to gold. Tsavorite is bright yellow green
to grass green and is also mined in Tanzania and Kenya.
Demantoid is primarily found in Russia. Hessonite and
spessartite mostly come in golds, oranges and browns.
Mandarin is a bright orange type of spessartite recently
found in Namibia. Grossular is available in pinks, greens
As the most common types of garnet, almandine and pyrope
are also the most affordable. But tsavorite and demantoid
are quite rare and can cost several thousand dollars
per carat depending on size and quality. Bright colors
usually command higher prices than gems with light or
dark hues. The stone also is available in a variety
of sizes, depending on the type of garnet. Larger stones
are available in the more common types and exceedingly
scarce in more valuable tsavorites and demantoids.
Throughout history, garnets have been prized for their
rich hues and supposed mystical properties. The stone
was a favorite of ancient Egyptian jewelry artisans.
Demantoid garnet was used lavishly by the Tsars of Russia.
Travelers carried the gem to protect them against accidents.
The gem was thought to protect its wearer from a range
of ailments, ward off evil spirits, spark creativity
and dispel anger. The stones are also said to light
up the night and protect their owners from nightmares.
Noah used a garnet lantern to navigate the Ark through
40 days and nights of torrential rain.
Garnet's various types range from 6-7 on the Mohs scale
of hardness, which means that the stone is susceptible
to nicks and cracks caused by impact.
To clean garnet, use warm soapy water and a soft brush.
Ultrasonic cleaning is safe for most types of garnet
except demantoid. Avoid steam cleaning.
Garnet is the recommended gift for couples celebrating
their second wedding anniversary.
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