As versatile as it is beautiful, the garnet has enchanted people for centuries. In ancient times the gems were cut into small, rounded beads to adorn jewelry; this resemblance to pomegranate seeds gives us the origin of the word “garnet.” Myth and legend surround this lovely gemstone. Travelers have carried garnets for centuries to protect them from accidents far from home. People in ancient Asia and the Old West used garnets as bullets, believing the blood red color added extra ferocity to the wounds inflicted. Conversely, it was also believed that garnets could prevent skin diseases and assure the wearer of love, faithfulness and safety from wounds! Garnets have been worn to ward off evil spirits and bad dreams and the Bible says Noah used a garnet lantern to navigate his great ark through the night.
The January birthstone appears in virtually every color of the rainbow except blue. Some garnet varieties are very rare, like the orange spessartine, also know as the Mandarin Garnet, discovered only a decade or so ago; while other varieties are quite common, like the blood red pyrope garnet mined in Czechoslovakia for centuries. Pyrope garnet is also called anthill garnet in Arizona because ants bring the gem to the surface while building their homes.
The beautiful Tsavorite garnet ranges from bright yellow to grass green and is predominantly found in quickly dwindling mines in east Africa. Discovered in Tanzania in 1968, then in neighboring Kenya in 1971, Tiffany & Co. introduced the vivid green stone to the world in 1974 as Tsavorite, after the Tsavo National Park in which it was found.demantoid garnet. Demantoid, meaning “diamond-like,” is characterized by its bright green color, fiery brilliance and exceptional clarity. These lovely qualities notwithstanding, the demantoid is highly prized for its occasional “horse-tail” inclusions, wispy traces of asbestos which actually add to the gem’s value!As a rule, garnets are an affordable and relatively abundant gemstone. Garnets are also fairly hard, ranging from 6.5 to 7.5 on the MOHs hardness scale (a diamond is 10). In addition to the wide variety of color, garnets also vary greatly in clarity, luster, and dispersion, or how they break up light into its component colors.As seen with the demantoid garnet, inclusions can sometimes be a benefit to garnets rather than a liability. The Almandite garnet occasionally has enough small needlelike crystal inclusions, called silk, to form a lovely star pattern, similar to Indian star sapphires. These asteriated, or starred garnets are found only in India and Idaho, but more often in Idaho. A rhodolite garnet can contain numerous snowflake-like inclusions resulting in a striking internal blizzard effect.The garnet, in all its forms, is a beautiful, magical and enchanting gemstone. Its rich and fabled past coupled with attractive appearance and relative affordability ensure the garnet will have a bright, shining future for years to come.