Though they have the same crystal structure--cubic, like diamond and spinel--garnets are an entire group of minerals that vary in their chemical composition, resulting in a variety of gems in different colors and with different qualities. Though some varieties of red garnet are common and found on every continent on Earth, other garnets like orange spessartite and hessonite, and green demantoid and tsavorite, are much less abundant. There are more than 20 garnet species, but the five most important garnet species include pyrope and almandite (the combination of which creates rhodolite), spessartite, grossular or grossularite (which includes hessonite and tsavorite), and andradite (which includes demantoid). Garnets of all species are the birthstone for January, so January babies aren't limited to the well-known red varieties.
|Warm soapy water and a soft brush are ideal for cleaning garnets. Ultrasonic cleaners are usually considered safe for garnet, but steam cleaners should be avoided. Garnet can fracture when exposed to abrupt, extreme temperature changes.|
|Garnets are a far-and-wide-ranging group of gems that cover virtually every color of the rainbow. Garnets are commonly found in shades of red and purplish-red (pyrope, almandite), oranges (spessartite, hessonite), yellows (andradite, hessonite, grossularite), and greens (andradite, grossularite, tsavorite, uvarovite). Grossularite garnets display the widest color range of all garnet species, including various shades of yellow, orange, reds, and greens. Read More. |
|Colored stones with intensely saturated color are the most valued in any gem species; such is also the case with garnet. The brighter, richer the color, the more valued the stone will be. Beyond that--with color, size, and clarity all being equal--spessartite, hessonite, tsavorite, and demantoid garnets are generally considered more valuable than the more abundant red garnets like almandite and rhodolite. Tsavorite and demantoid garnets with the rare horsetail inclusions are considered the most valuable of all garnets.|
Name Origin and Meaning
The word "garnet" comes from the Latin word granatus, literally translated to mean "grain," but it's also thought to be derived from the latter portion of pomegranate because some garnet crystals bear a resemblance to pomegranate seeds.
Garnets from some species possess phenomena that other garnets do not. Almandite and sometimes rhodolite garnets can exhibit asterism, displaying rare four-ray or even rarer six-ray stars. The andradite species can display chatoyancy (cat's-eye) or iridescence, though both are very rare. Pyrope, or pyrope-spessartite mixes like Malaya, and select other garnets can possess color-change abilities. The grossular garnets exhibit no phenomena.
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. Carved garnets adorned signet rings used to stamp wax seals in ancient Rome, and red garnets were popular among clergy and nobility in the Middle Ages from around 475 to 1450 AD. Around 1600, the beloved "Bohemian" pyrope garnets of Czechoslovakia gave garnet a boost of interest in Victorian and other jewelry that lasted until the beginning of the 20th century. Slices of garnets have even been used in church windows. Today, orange (spessartite and hessonite) and green (demantoid and tsavorite) garnets have increased popularity (and increased availability) that is allowing them to join their red cousins in the jewelry marketplace beyond just being collector's stones.
According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), no garnet is ever pure in nature, so garnet species mix to create garnet varieties with a wider range of colors and characteristics. The results are happy accidents like rosy rhodolite and sparkling green tsavorite.
Garnets are also known for the different regions in which they are mined. Mali garnet, a grossular-andradite, is typically yellow, green, or brown, and gypsy rose garnet (in the photo above), discovered in Tanzania's Umba Valley, is an attractive orange-red garnet that is different because of its unusually high grossular content (7.0-8.5%).
Garnets usually form in dodecahedrons, which is a complex shape with 12 equal diamond-shaped sides.
Noah is said to have recognized garnet's inner fire and used it as a "lamp" to reflect light on the bow of the Ark.
Learn more about garnet from our JTV Expert series videos! Visit our YouTube page for more on the garnet stone and other gemstone education.