Garnet is the birthstone for January and the gem that celebrates the second anniversary. It signifies eternal friendship and trust and is the perfect gift for a friend.
Garnet, derived from the word granatum, means seed, and is called so because of the gemstone’s resemblance to a pomegranate seed.
It has long been thought of as a travellers’ stone. In fact, Noah’s Ark is said to have had a garnet lantern to help navigate during the night.
References to the gemstone dates back to 3100 B.C., when the Egyptians used garnets as inlays jewelry. Red garnet necklaces adorned the necks of Egypt’s pharaohs, and were entombed with their mummified corpses as prized possessions for the afterlife.
In ancient Rome, signet rings with carved garnets were used to stamp the wax that secured important documents.
In ancient times, garnet and other red gemstones cut en cabochon were called “carbuncles”. The Latin word, “carbunculus” alludes to a burning piece of coal or ember. This may have been used to refer to garnet because of its bright colour.
They are a set of closely related minerals that form a group, resulting in gemstones in almost every color. Red garnets have a long history, but modern gem buyers can pick from a rich palette of garnet colors: greens, oranges, pinkish oranges, deeply saturated purplish reds.
One of the most recently discovered colours of garnet is the rare blue color-change garnet, which was discovered in the late 1990s in Madagascar. It has since been found in other regions, such as the USA, Russia, Kenya, Tanzania and Turkey.
All garnets have essentially the same crystal structure, but they vary in chemical composition. There are more than twenty categories, called species, but only five are commercially important as gems.
Those five are pyrope, almandine (also called almandite), spessartine, grossular (grossularite), and andradite. A sixth, uvarovite, is a green garnet that usually occurs as crystals too small to cut. It’s sometimes set as clusters in jewelry. Many garnets are chemical mixtures of two or more garnet species.
Red garnet is one of the most common and widespread of gems, found in metamorphic rocks (which are rocks altered by heat and pressure) on every continent.
But not all garnets are as abundant as the red ones. A green garnet, tsavorite, also occurs in metamorphic rocks, but it’s rarer because it needs unusual rock chemistries and special conditions to form.
Demantoid is a rare and famous green garnet, spessartine (also called spessarite) is an orange garnet, and rhodolite is a beautiful purple-red garnet. Garnets can even exhibit the color-change phenomenon similar to the rare gemstone alexandrite.
Garnets are quite tough and durable, though the hardness depends on the type of garnet. For example, demantoid garnets are softer than almandine, pyrope, spessartite and tsavorite garnets.
Proper care for garnets includes protecting them from hard blows, which could damage them. To clean your garnets, simply use warm soapy water, a toothbrush and a soft cloth.
To clean your garnets, simply use warm soapy water and a soft cloth. Be sure to rinse well to remove soapy residue. As with most gemstones, ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended.
Always remove any jewellery or gemstones before exercising, cleaning or engaging in harsh physical activities such as sport.
Store garnets away from other gemstones to avoid scratches. It is best to wrap gemstones in soft cloth or place them inside a fabric-lined jewellery box.
We hope this article has given you a bit more of a background on garnets, but should you have any additional questions about this or any other jewellery related topics, you can always: “Ask Our Jeweller”
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