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Garnet, the birthstone for January, is one of the oldest gemstones in history and is layered with rich symbolism and colorful beauty. Let’s unravel this red-colored gem in today’s round of the Gemstone Series.
What is garnet?
Garnet is a group of rock-forming minerals with common crystal structure. Red garnets are the most coveted and most popular but a rich palette of colors is available for gem enthusiasts. Garnet also comes in orange, pinkish-orange, reddish-brown, blue, green, and purplish-red. Although red garnets have been the most widespread, green garnets, known as tsavorite, are the highest priced in the group owing to their rarity. Dubbed as the world’s rarest garnet, green garnets, especially top-colored ones, can rival any other green gems in the market today.
The word ‘garnet’ comes from the Latin word ‘granatus’ which means ‘seed’ and is likely a reference to pomegranate fruit.
How does garnet form?
Garnet forms during regional metamorphism where intense heat and temperature break chemical bonds and cause minerals to recrystallize into structures under a new stable environment. Garnets form as tiny rocks, but as the metamorphism progresses, they enlarge, often including the surrounding rocks.
What are the physical properties of garnet?
Garnet does not only come in a rich palette of colors but it also exhibits a range of optical properties due to its varied mineral composition. Below are some factors that can affect garnet’s physical property and of course, quality.
Garnet comes in a wide range of colors. In fact, garnet is available in almost all colors. The elements within the crystal lattice determine the color of the gem.
The refractive index of a gem affects its ability to bend and reflect light, contributing to its sparkle. The higher the refractive index the more bending happens, leading to more sparkle and brilliance. Garnet’s refractive index, as shown above, ranges between 1.71 to 1.89.
Transparency and Luster
Depending on the variety you have, garnets can either be transparent or translucent. They also have a vitreous luster adding to their overall brilliance.
Chatoyancy or the cat’s eye effect is an optical phenomenon that can be present in some garnets.
Like chatoyancy, pleochroism is another optical phenomenon that dark-colored garnets usually exhibit. Pleochroic gems are gems that show different colors when viewed from different angles.
Where is garnet found?
Garnets can be found all over the world but the most common sources are in Brazil, China, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Tanzania, and the USA.
History and Symbolism
Garnet has been around for over 5000 years and was found in jewelry pieces of many Egyptian burials. Among these discoveries was a beautiful red garnet bead necklace dated 3800 BC. Furthermore, Egyptian pharaohs were believed to have adorned their necks with red garnet necklaces in addition to entombing their mummified corpses with them, treating them as prized possessions in the afterlife. This was not a surprise, especially considering historical accounts where Egyptians referred to garnets as a symbol of life.
Garnets have been popularly associated with love, life, light, friendship, and vitality. In Ancient Times, this gem of varied colors was also worn as a talisman that was believed to have the power to ward off evil and protect the wearer, often warriors going into battle. Perhaps this is why many called it the Stone of Health. It not only protects the wearers against illnesses but also provides them with energy and strength.
More Quality Factors
Before deciding to buy garnet, think about the common factors that could affect the quality and value.
As we’ve mentioned above, garnets come in almost all colors. Dark red varieties are more affordable than the rare green tsavorites.
The clarity of garnet depends on its variety. It’s common to find red ones without eye-visible inclusions.
Garnets are often cut into standard sizes and shapes to allow an easy setting. This is commonly the case for red ones; however, fine-quality, expensive garnets are cut in such styles that allow them to retain their weight from the rough.
Like other gemstones, garnets come in all sizes and weights but rare, fine-quality ones are usually in smaller sizes. Thus, their value increases with size.
As special as January babies!
Were you born in January? Garnet’s long history, charm, and symbolism make it just as beautiful as any other gem. It’s one of the most diverse gemstones in the world, just perfect to add life to your long, slow January days.