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January Birthstone: Garnet

March 17, 2019

By: Diane Nicole Go, GIA Graduate Gemologist

In case you missed it, wearing your birthstone is now the in thing! And if you’re a January baby, you’re in luck! You have the beautiful and diverse Garnet as your stone. Beyond the common red color that it’s known for, Garnet actually comes in rainbow-colored hues like orange, yellow, purple, green and more! There are even rare variants that can change color from blue to purple when viewed in different lighting. Garnet is even believed to bring good health, prosperity and happiness when worn, making it a perfect gift for those who were born on January. It can even be given to couples who are celebrating the second anniversary of their marriage!  

History

The name Garnet comes from the Latin word “granatus”, meaning pomegranate because the stone resembles the bright red seeds of the fruit. Garnets have been around for a long time, dating to the Bronze age, where it was used in jewelry and even as an abrasive. It was even believed to be the beacon of light used by Noah to light the way for his ark! Garnets have also been present all throughout history, from the necklaces worn by the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt to the signet rings used to stamp wax seals for important documents in Ancient Rome. Fast forward to the 18th and 19th century, this birthstone was frequently used for jewelry in the Victorian times, as it was prized for its lovely red hue. And because people in Spain favored the pomegranate fruit, they in turn loved garnet and would use it often in their accessories. Currently, Garnet can be used as an affordable alternative to Ruby, but it too has an unmatched earthy color and appeal of its own. Garnet now takes the form of not just fine jewelry, but even as beads that you can wear for every day, or as tumbled crystals that you can carry for protection.  

Physical Attributes

Garnet is actually a group of several minerals called silicates, which make up approximately 90% of the Earth’s crust. One of the more abundant gems with a wide range of classifications, Garnet can be found in metamorphic rock and can range between 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Due to its intense formation in the earth, where it had to withstand extreme heat and pressure, Garnet is a durable stone with a nicely formed crystal face, a glass-like luster (vitreous) and an even to intense color. They can be divided into 6 main categories, based on their color and properties:
  1. Pyrope: dubbed by the Dutch scholar Erasmus as “living fire”, Pyrope Garnet is a passionate stone that comes in deeply colored red, orange to purple hues. The name Rhodolite is used to describe a rose-pink to red Pyrope Garnet.
 

2.  Almandine: one of the more abundant varieties of Garnet, Almandine comes in a purple to red hue, but with brownish undertones to it. It is one of the hardest variants of Garnet that usually has a dark tone.

   

3.  Spessartine: known as the Garnet of the Sun, the Spessartine Garnet comes in bright colors of oranges and yellows. It’s a rare kind of garnet that’s almost always mixed with either Almandine, resulting into a red hue, or with Pyrope to give it its color-changing attributes.

 

4.  Grossular: this garnet has the widest range of colors, from colorless to bright yellows, reddish orange and orangey red hues. It can even occur in a bright green color— this variant being known as Tsavorite.

     

5.  Andradite: comes in elemental colors of yellow and green. Demantoid is the valuable gem form of Andradite Garnet, which has an excellent luster and occurs in a lush green color, reminiscent of a forest.

 

6.  Uravorite: a rare variant of Garnet that comes in small and uniform green crystals on a rock (drusy). Its green color can be likened to Emerald and is often hard to come across in gem form.

  Although some Garnets are “pure”, there are other instances where the stones can show attributes from more than one category— an example of which being the color-changing Pyrope Spessartine Garnet, which can appear blue under white light and violet to purple under incandescent light.  

Healing Properties

Beyond the aesthetic appeal and charm, Garnets were also used in the past as talismans to protect the wearer from wounds and to stop bleeding. Garnet is believed to be a passionate stone that incites strong friendships, fidelity, success and self-esteem. An ancient symbol of friendship, garnets are often exchanged between friends as a sign of affection and the promise of meeting again. A passionate stone, Garnet utilizes creative energy. It is believed to be beneficial in people-oriented business and personal success as well, since it gives strength and courage to the wearer to interact with people confidently.
  1. Pyrope: associated with the Base and Crown chakras, it inspires and encourages creative energy, and promotes the wearer to be warm and gentle towards others.
  2. Almandine: associated with the First chakra, it aids circulation and blood-related issues, and helps with love and relationships.
  3. Spessartine: associated with the Sacral and Solar Plexus chakra, it awakens creative energy and gives confidence to the wearer.
  4. Grossular: associated with the Base, Sacral, Solar Plexus and Heart chakras, it is a spiritual stone of hope and empowerment.
  5. Andradite: associated with the Base, Heart and Solar Plexus chakras, it helps you interact more with people by getting rid of feelings of isolation and loneliness.
  6.  Uravorite: associated with the Heart chakra, it is a calm and peaceful stone that enhances spiritual relationships and attracts wealth. Because of its rarity, people often give it to their loved ones to show that they are precious to them.

Care and Cleaning

Although acceptable for every day wear, it is more susceptible to damage compared to rubies, sapphires and diamonds, which rank 9 and 10 on the Mohs Scale. Make sure to store them separately, since letting them rub against harder gems may scratch them. In turn, they too can scratch softer gems like fluorite, opals and pearls. If the gem is not treated and does not have any cracks or chips that may affect its durability, you can clean your jewelry pieces with an ultrasonic cleaner. The best and safest way to clean your jewelry, however, is with warm soapy water and a toothbrush.  

Choose the Right Garnet

Garnets occur in a wide spectrum of hues, but the price will depend on the rarity of the color. Color-changing Garnets, along with rare colors like green and blue fetch high prices. Red garnets, on the other hand, are plentiful, but their clarity and size can raise their value. And much like any other stone, the 4 C’s: color, clarity, cut and carat will affect both the beauty and value of a Garnet. Most Garnets are not treated, as they occur abundantly and form quite well—with an even coloring that is rich and highly saturated. Garnets are generally “clean”, but can come with a few inclusions, or markings, which do not affect the quality of the stone (unless these are cracks and chips, which can affect durability). Some notable ones add beauty to the stone. Demantoid garnets for example have golden threads called horsetails in them. These unique attributes add appeal to any piece. If you’re looking for an affordable stone that comes in a wide range of colors, a garnet is your best bet. But technicalities aside, it is important that you choose a piece that makes you happy, so that your investment will not only be of sentimental value to you but will also be something that you can pass on to your future generation.

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