Best known for its deep red varieties, this gemstone was once so sought after that Empress Marie Terezie banned its export.
Those born in January are lucky to have the beautiful, diverse garnet as their birthstone. Garnets are most commonly red but also come in a range of hues, from orange, yellow, purple to vibrant green. The name “garnet” originates from the medieval Latin "granatus," meaning “pomegranate,” in reference to the similar red color of the stone. Some believe the true value of the garnet birthstone is its power to bring the wearer good health, wealth and happiness.
From Ancient Egypt to the Victorian Era, garnets have been prized possessions and one of most widely traded gems in history. Coming in a variety of colors from red to orange, purple, blue and even green, garnets are best know for their deep pomegranate red hue. Around 1500, the famous Bohemian garnet deposits in Central Europe became a hub of the jewelry industry until it reached its peak in the late 1800s. Today most garnets are sourced around the globe in the following countries: US, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Myanmar, Brazil, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Sri Lanka, among many others.
They Aren’t All Red - Red garnets have a long history, but modern gem buyers can pick from a rich palette of garnet colors: greens, oranges, pinkish oranges, deeply saturated purplish reds, and even some blues. However, the red transparent stone with the color of a pomegranate seed is the one most often associated with the name garnet.
They Aren’t Mined Underground - While many, if not most, gemstones are mined underground, garnets are not. Garnets are commonly found as small pebbles in streams and watery places, in Africa, North and South America, and in the Middle East among many other locales.
They Were Prized by Ancient Warriors - Ancient warriors believed that garnets brought them victory. The Crusaders used them as protection against wounds and accidents during their journeys, and Asian Warriors believed that glowing garnets, which could be used as bullets, inflicted more severe wounds.
They Were Believed to Have Healing Powers - In Medieval times, garnets were thought to protect the wearer against poisons, wounds and bad dreams, as well as cure depression. Red garnets in particular were thought to relieve fever, hemorrhages and inflammatory disease. For all of these reasons, garnets became a favorite of the clergy and nobility at the time.
They Have Been Fashioned into Jewelry for more than 5,000 Years – A stylish red garnet bead necklace was found in a grave in Egypt dating back to 3800 BC.
Care and Cleaning
Garnets are softer more susceptible to damage than rubies, sapphires and diamond, so may not be the best gemstone for a ring that you wear daily, but are ideal for earrings, brooches and pendants. While softer than some gems, they are harder than others, like opals and pearls, be mindful about how you store your garnet pieces with your other jewels.
Use of a soft brush with warm soapy water is always safe for cleaning garnets. Ultrasonic cleaners are usually safe, except for stones that have fractures or have been fracture filled. Steam cleaning is not recommended.