Garnet - a Birthstone for January
23rd January 2011
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Last week whilst I was visiting zigzag Jewellers situated in The Borough , Farnham I observed that several ladies were asking Julie, the owner to view the garnets on show. So, as Valentine's day is approaching and garnets are so so popular with the ladies I asked Julie to share with us more about garnets

What is Garnet and where does it come from?

Garnets are a group of closely related minerals, with the same crystal structure, but with varying physical properties and chemical composition.

Garnets occur in a wide array of colours, ranging from red to green and orange tones, and have a multitude of names; almandine, andradite, demantoid, grossular, hessonite, pyrope, rhodolite, tsavorite, spessartite and uravorite.  The diversity of colours is due to combinations of different elements within each variety, such as calcium, manganese and iron. 

There are six types of garnet commonly used as a gemstone and, with a hardness of 7 on Mohs scale, they are very durable for use in jewellery.

Depending on the species of garnet, the mineral occurs in a variety of settings from schists and gneisses, to pegmatites and sedimentary deposits.  Garnets come from India, Central and South America, Sri Lanka, Russia and Africa. 

History, Legends and Folklore of the Stone

The name ‘garnet’ comes from the Latin ‘granatus’.  When garnet was first found as grains in rock, it was likened to the rich, red seeds of the pomegranate. 

Some species of garnet were named according to where they were discovered.  For example, tsavorite was named after the Tsavor Game Reserve of Kenya.  Other garnets have been named after their physical properties.  Grossular was named after the gooseberry, ‘grossularia’; rhodolite from the Greek ‘rhodon’ meaning rose; pyrope from the Greek for ‘fire-like’, and demantoid is from demant, meaning diamond in French, due to the brilliance of the garnet.

Garnets were widely used in jewellery in Egyptian, Greek and Roman times and have been used as gemstones throughout history.  All red stones were called carbuncles in ancient times and the Koran says that the 4th circle of heaven is composed of a carbuncle.  It was said that Noah used a lantern of garnet to guide his ark in the night.

A Greek myth tells the story of Persephone, the goddess of sunshine, who was abducted by Hades, god of the underworld.  Persephone was eventually released by Hades, when he offered her some pomegranate seeds, which made sure she would return to him.  It is from this legend that garnet is the protective gemstone for travellers.  A gift of the stone symbolises the desire for a loved one’s safe journey and speedy return home.

Garnet as a Celebration Stone

Garnet is the birthstone for the month of January, and for the zodiac sign Capricorn (December 22 to January 21).  It is also traditionally given to celebrate two years of marriage.

Gemstone profile - Lucy Ellor FGA

About the Author

Martin D

Member since: 10th July 2012

Hi, if we have yet to meet, my name is Martin and I have been running the Best of Farnham for over 14 years.

My aim is to promote and champion only the best of businesses throughout the area, helping...

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