About Garnet - History and Introduction
When thinking of garnet, most people think of red gemstones. Garnet most commonly occurs in red, and the origin of the name "garnet" lies in this deep red hue. The name "garnet" comes from the Medieval Latin word, "granatum", which is an adjective meaning "dark-red". It is thought that this adjective could have been extracted from the word "pomegranate", due to the colour of the seed coats or shape of the seeds. However, the word could also have come from another Medieval Latin word; "granum", referring to red dye. The use of red garnet dates back thousands of years, when it was used by Egyptian pharaohs for both decorative and ceremonial purposes. The ancient Romans also wore garnet rings and traded garnet gemstones. In ancient times, garnet and other red gemstones cut en cabochon were called "carbuncles", which is not the prettiest of names because it was also used to define pus-filled boils.
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. Large deposits of red garnet were discovered in Bohemia (Central Europe) around the 16th century, which became the focus of the jewellery industry in the area. Bohemian garnet from the Czech Republic continues to be mined today. Although red is the most commonly occurring colour, garnet occurs in almost every colour. One of the most recently discovered colours of garnet is the rare blue 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. Garnet is a gem group that occurs in over twenty varieties. Of these varieties, six main types are used as gems. These are pyrope, almandite, spessartite, grossularite, andradite and uvarovite.
Identifying Garnet Back to Top
Garnet can be identified by its occurrence in metamorphic rock, its hardness (6.5 - 7.5 on the Mohs scale), colour, refractive index and cubic crystal structure. However, the quickest way to identify garnet is with the use of strong neodymium magnets. Garnet is attracted to neodymium magnets because it contains high concentrations of iron and/or manganese.
Garnet; Origin and Gemstone Sources Back to Top
Garnet is found all over the world. Different types of garnet occur in different locations. The following shows the type of garnet and place where it is usually found:
Pyrope: China, Madagascar, Myanmar (Burma), South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and the USA.
Buying Garnet and Determining Garnet Gemstone Value Back to Top
Garnet Gemmological Properties: Back to Top
Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemmology-related terms.
Garnet: Related or Similar Gemstones Back to Top
Since garnets occur in such a wide choice of colours, they can be mistaken for other gemstones. Varieties of garnet can also be confused amongst themselves. Types of garnet can also be confused, since some of them are similar in colour, such as red almandine, rhodolite and pyrope garnets. Chemical composition can help to identify garnet varieties. Due to colour, almandine garnets can be confused with dark-red spinel or rubellite tourmaline. However, spinel is harder than garnet, measuring 8 on the Mohs scale, and tourmaline has a trigonal crystal system, which sets it apart from garnet. Pyrope garnet is another red variety of garnet that can be confused with almandine, though pyrope garnet has a different chemical composition.
The orange variety of spessartite can be confused with andalusite, chrysoberyl, fire opal, hessonite, sphene and topaz. Andalusite can be identified by its strong pleochroism. Chrysoberyl, topaz, sphene and fire opal can be distinguished by their hardness; chrysoberyl and topaz are 8 on the Mohs scale, whilst sphene measures 5 - 5.5 and fire opal has a hardness of 5.5 - 6.5. Hessonite can be identified by its lower density of 3.57 - 3.73. Grossular garnet can be difficult to distinguish from demantoid garnet, tourmaline and emerald. Tourmaline and emerald do not have the cubic crystal system of garnet, so they can be identified in this way. Demantoid garnet can be identified by its different chemical composition. Hessonite can be confused with chrysoberyl, zircon, cassiterite and spessartite. As previously mentioned, chrysoberyl is harder than hessonite. Zircon and cassiterite share a tetragonal crystal system, unlike garnet. Demantoid garnet can be confused with grossularite, peridot, emerald, spinel, tourmaline and uvarovite. Demantoid garnet can be distinguished from all of the above, except for uvarovite, by its high refractive index (1.88- 1.94). Sometimes, coloured glass is falsely sold as garnet. In these cases, only the colour imitates the gemstone.
Garnet Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers Back to Top
Garnet 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. In traditional Hindu belief systems, garnet is associated with the first chakra, or the "root chakra", which is positioned at the base of the spine. The root chakra when clear is associated with healthy sexual activity and feelings of security and stability. Garnet is also thought to promote successful business, encourage compassion and aid self-confidence. Garnet is said to have the ability to heal the blood and encourage good circulation. Garnet is the traditional birthstone for January, the zodiacal stone for Aquarius and the second anniversary stone.
Garnet Gemstone and Jewellery Design Ideas Back to Top
Garnet is incredibly versatile due to its great variety of colours and is ideal for almost any type of jewellery, such as rings, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, hair pins and other beautiful ornaments. Those planning to use garnets in jewellery should first consider their preferred colour. The choice of garnet colours is great, with yellow, orange, peach, green, red, purple, blue, brown and pink possibilities. Since garnet has such a long history, there is a great deal of beautiful red garnet antique jewellery available. Almandine garnet crystals occur in larger sizes than pyrope garnet, so almandine is often used as central stones. Traditional pyrope garnet jewellery from the Bohemian mines of Central Europe typically features small, closely-set stones that appear like ripe, glistening pomegranate seeds. Garnet has also been worked into various modern designs, such as drilled garnet stacked earrings, square cut garnets, or garnets set into smooth, sleek silver. Garnets are also mixed with other gemstones of contrasting colour to create an innovative modern look.
Famous Garnet Gemstones Back to Top
A garnet cabochon set into an exquisite flower brooch from the estate of Jackie Kennedy Onassis reached over $100,000 in an auction. A spessartite butterfly is displayed at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, USA. The spessartite was mined in California, and the butterfly features a pair of tsavorite eyes. An antique pyrope garnet hairpin is exhibited at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, USA. This is a stunning example of Bohemian garnets; the pyrope garnets set into the hairpin originated in the mines of Bohemia, Czech Republic.
Note: Buy coloured gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Coloured stones vary in size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamonds by weight in comparison.
Garnet Gemstone Jewellery Care and Cleaning Back to Top
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 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.
- First Published: September-14-2006
- Last Updated: June-02-2014
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