For many, January is a slump. Festivities are over, wallets are empty, there are still months (years?) left until British Summertime is upon us again, and it’s easy to feel ever so slightly aimless. But, against the odds, we’re invigorated by the prospect of a brand new year, pregnant with promise and possibility.
After a splendid Christmas break, we’re back with the very first blog post of 2020. This one’s all about the gemstone for this fresh-faced month, which is, of course, the garnet.
On hearing the word ‘garnet’, many find the image of a deep red gemstone springing to mind. What a lot of people don’t know, however, is that garnets are a set of closely-related minerals that form a group, resulting in gemstones in almost every colour imaginable. Red garnets have a long history, but modern gem buyers are now spoilt for choice with a rich palette of garnet colours; from greens to oranges, purples and even some blues.
The red garnet is one of the world’s most common and widespread gems, found on every continent in rocks altered by heat and pressure (metamorphic rocks, for the scientific reader). But, not all garnets are as abundant as their familiar red counterparts. A green garnet – or a tsavorite– also occurs in metamorphic rocks, but is much rarer because it requires unusual rock chemistries and special conditions to form. Demantoid is another rare type of green garnet, famed for how it displays an incredible amount of fire (the ability of a gem to split light into the colours of the spectrum). The demantoid garnet also displays horsetail inclusions - feathery golden strands that resemble the tail of a horse and one of very few internal inclusions that actually add value to a gemstone. Spessartine is an orange garnet, and rhodolite is a beautiful purple-red garnet. Beyond this rainbow of hues, some garnets can even exhibit the colour-change phenomenon similar to the rare gemstone alexandrite.
Figuring out how to categorise a garnet gem according to one of the six main mineral species has long proven a challenging task for even the most experienced of gemmologists.
‘Garnet’ is derived from the Latin Garanatus,meaning ‘seed-like’, a name earned by the deep crimson hue the iconic red garnet shares with the pomegranate seed. This rich red colour has understandably earned garnet a symbolic association with love, making it a popular token of romantic affection.
Red garnets have been revered for millennia, once adorning the necks of Egyptian pharaohs and entombed with their mummified corpses as possessions for the afterlife. One of the most notable garnet jewels in history was a stylish necklace fashioned out of red garnet beads, found in a grave in Egypt dating back to 3,000 BC – over 5,000 years ago! In Ancient Rome, signet rings with carved garnets were used to stamp the wax securing important documents.
Depending on type, garnet scores between a 6.5 and a 7.5 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, unfortunately making it slightly too soft to be set in an everyday jewel like an engagement ring. However, red garnet’s affordability, availability and uncanny resemblance to its pricier sister, ruby, make it a wonderful gift for a January baby or a significant other.
Beautiful scarlet garnet can be found in our Amulets of Harmony collection and Gemstone Stacking Rings. Tucked away in our technicolour collection of beautiful loose gemstones and raring to be set in a bespoke creation are also some violet princess-cut rhodolite garnets and a handful of deep ember-hued garnets in fun trillion cuts.