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The Garnet, January’s Birthstone

Garnet, the birthstone of January is a cubic crystal. The garnet is also the stone marking the second wedding anniversary

Garnet is a very common stone and so is a semi-precious rather than a precious gemstone. There are several colours, red, orange, yellow, green, purple, brown, blue, black, pink, and colourless, some of the colours are often mistaken for other, more precious stones.

The classic colour associated with garnet is red, and this colour, similar to the colour of pomegranate seeds gave the stone its name, from the Latin ‘granatus’ for pomegranate.

With its great variety of colours and reputed mystical powers, garnet has been given as a gift for many occasions over many centuries.

The History Of Garnet

The garnet has a long history, a grave from 5000 years ago has been found containing a necklace made of red garnet beads.

Ancient Egypt knew about garnets, amulets made with garnets have been found in pharaonic tombs. Roman noblemen wore signet rings made with garnets. In Ancient Persia, garnets were restricted to kings alone.

Through history, garnets have been prized for their ‘fire’ the brilliant sparkle shown at its best in candlelight.

In the west, from late in the Roman Empire and onward through the Dark Ages, garnets were the most commonly found gems. Examples of their use during this period have been recovered from Sutton Hoo in the United Kingdom to the Black Sea, often in a form called cloisonné which is stones inset to gold giving a flat finish.

In recent times, Catherine Middleton, who went on to become the wife of Prince William, was often seen wearing a pearl and garnet ring. Speculated to be a gift from Prince William; the ring’s garnet is the birthstone of the Duchess.

The Geology And Chemistry Of Garnet

Garnet is a group of minerals consisting of silica. Silica is a widespread material, making up around 90% of the Earth's crust. All types of garnet have a similar crystal form with the different colours coming from other trace elements in the crystals. Some stones transmit a lot of light and therefore look clear, others are opaque and have no value as gemstones, it is common to use crushed garnet as an industrial abrasive.

Garnets are found in igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. Most garnets found near to the Earth’s surface comes from sedimentary rocks that have been held under high pressure and temperature.

In nature, garnets can be found as individual crystals, pebbles, as granular aggregates and as large stones.

Because garnets can be formed at the same time and in a similar way to diamonds, they are often used as an indicator by prospectors looking for diamonds. There are a vast number of garnets for every diamond so finding garnets often suggests the presence of diamonds nearby. Prospectors can follow a trail of garnets back to the source of the garnets and find diamonds in the rocks.

Meanings and Beliefs Connected With Garnet

Because garnet has such a long history and is used so widely across the world, there are many different ideas as to the power of garnet. In this piece, we cover just a few of the more notable ones.

Garnet has long been held to keep the wearer safe when travelling. During Roman times it was thought that if a garnet should sparkle, then it was warning the wearer of approaching danger.

In Ancient China a red garnet represented a tiger’s soul transformed into the precious red gem at the time of its death.In Greek mythology, the pomegranate was a love gift and the red garnet, looking similar to pomegranate seeds came to have the same symbolism.

The Navajo Indians of Utah in the United States used the garnet as a good luck charm, they wore them as adornments to their clothing for protection.

According to Christian traditions, a blood red garnet is a symbol of the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ.

More than just a good luck charm, people have believed that the stone had a role to play in physical health, thought to cure difficult skin conditions and keeping the male reproductive system healthy. The symbolism with blood has led to ideas that the garnet can cure blood diseases and a healthy heart.

Garnet Jewellery

Garnet is a suitable gemstone for daily wear, it is relatively durable, although somewhat brittle. When wearing jewellery made with garnet, try not to let the gem be knocked as it might crack or shatter. Garnet has a Mohs hardness scale rating of 7-7.5 making it one of the hardest substances found in nature.

Unlike many other gemstones, garnets are very rarely treated to improve their colour or quality. In jewellery, they can be used as a relatively inexpensive substitute for ruby (red), yellow (topaz) and green (emerald) making it possible to create very showy pieces at a lower cost than might be expected if using the ‘real’ gemstones.

When buying garnet jewellery look at pendant or earrings for daily wear and keep rings and bracelets, which are more likely to receive sharp impacts, for special occasions. A well looked after garnet might last hundreds of years – after all, we have found garnets in jewellery going back thousands of years.

Unlike some gems, garnets will not fade under bright light or high temperatures.

Cleaning is best done using warm soapy water and possibly a soft toothbrush. If you want to use ultrasonic cleaners, check to make sure that your stone has no cracks before doing so.Garnet, especially in red, is a beautiful gem and makes lovely jewellery. Because it is relatively inexpensive, it makes an excellent choice for stunning, impressive pieces with large stones. If you were born in January, then you owe it to yourself to have at leastone item of garnet in your jewellery box.