Garnet, the January birthstone, is in my opinion, underappreciated. Garnet derived its name from the Latin word granatus, meaning like a grain, which refers to the mode of occurrence where crystals resemble grains or seeds embedded in the matrix. The name is also thought to be derived from the pomegranate fruit because some garnet crystals bear a resemblance to pomegranate seeds. Believe it or not, garnet displays the greatest variety of color of any mineral, occurring in every color except blue. Garnets can sometimes exhibit optical phenomena such as asterism (a star shaped pattern of reflections), chatoyancy (a “cat’s eye” seen in reflected light), or a color change when viewed under different types of lighting.
People often tell me they don’t like garnets because of the color and I always reply “which color”? To give you an idea of the range of colors, here is a list of varieties with general guides to color shading.
Photo courtesy of GIA.
Pyrope, is a red usually with a brown tint
Rhodolite, is a purplish red or rose colored red
Almandite, is a red with a violet tint
Spessartite, is a orange to a red brown
Grossularite, can be colorless, green, yellow, brown
Hessonite, is a orangy brownish red
Tsavorite, is a green to emerald green
Demantoid, the most valuable garnet, is a brownish, olive green to emerald green
Melanite, is an opaque black variety of andradite
Tapazolite, is a yellow to lemon yellow
Uvarovite, is an dark green that rarely occurs in gemstone quality
Garnets have been used in jewelry and for other decorative purposes for thousands of years, dating back as early as 3100 BC when Egyptians valued garnets as beads for pharaoh’s necklaces and buried them in tombs with mummies. Slices of garnets have even been used in church windows. Noah, it is said, used a garnet lantern to help him steer his ark through the dark night.
Raspberry red garnet ring in 14 karat black gold. Photo courtesy of Art Masters Jewelry.
“Regard” garnet bracelet, photo courtesy of 1st Dibs.
Demantoid garnets are a dark olive green that have been used since they were found in Russia in 1868. They were very popular in jewelry during the late 1800’s-early 1900’s. Demantoids should not be confused with tsavorite garnets which are a bright and lively emerald green (one of Mrs. Jones’ favorite gemstones). I knew the man that discovered the tsavorite garnet. The late Dr. Campbell Bridges was an acquaintance of mine. He was a brilliant, personable, fun loving adventurer who also happened to be a Scotsman. He helped create the international market for tsavorite and tanzanite by contacting Tiffany & Co., who in turn, created a marketing campaign to raise awareness of the two stones. Needless to say, the campaign was wildly successful.
Sadly, Dr. Bridges was murdered in 2009 when a mob attacked him, his son and two workers on their property in Tsavo National Park. It is believed that the attack was connected to a three year dispute over access and control of Bridges’ gemstone mines. His death was a horrible, needless tragedy. His discovery however, changed the gemstone world. Tsavorite continues to grow and expand it’s foothold in the colored stone industry.
Martin Katz tsavorite and diamond ivy necklace, photo courtesy of Martin Katz.
Tsavorite and demantoid garnet earrings, photo courtesy of Ivy New York.
Spessartite and color change garnet earrings, photo courtesy of Ivy New York.
Eclat mandarin garnet and diamond ring, photo courtesy of Eclat Jewels.
Katherine Jetter mandarin garnet and Australian Koroit Opal drop earrings from the Desert Sun Season Collection. Photo courtesy of Katherine Jetter.
Taffin tourmaline, garnet and diamond brooch, photo courtesy of Simon Teakle.
Hemmerle brooch with garnets, diamonds and sapphires. Photo courtesy of Hemmerle.
Hemmerle tsavorite garnet and jade earrings. Photo courtesy of Hemmerle.
I hope you enjoyed discovering the wonderful world of garnet color. As you can see, there are plenty of colors to choose from! Colors for every skin tone and color palette. Let me know what color you like best!