The Great Garnet Family of Gemstones

The Great Garnet Family of Gemstones

It was the occultist Albertus Magnus in 1270 who gave the name Garnet to this precious stone. He described this mineral as GRANATUS, meaning SEED, due to the resemblance of this stone's form and color to pomegranate seed.

The garnets are a complex family of minerals. They all have similar structures but vary widely in chemical composition, properties and hardness. They come in a variety of colors ranging from pink, cinnamon brown, orange, yellow, green, purple, blue, black and colorless; but most often in beautiful pomegranate red. The luster of garnets ranges from vitreous (glass-like) to resinous (amber-like). It is translucent to opaque.

All garnets fall between 6.5 and 7.5 on Mohs hardness scale which means they can be used in almost any type of jewelry. However, garnet as a gemstone is rarely found in very big carat sizes.

Magnets are used to identify garnets. Its pick-up response to a strong neodymium magnet and its refractive index help to distinguish garnets from other varieties of gems.

Garnets are not affected at all by heat or irradiation so they are never heated nor treated.

The main varieties of garnets are as follows:

ALMANDINE – most red garnets like almandine were known as carbuncles in ancient times. It has been used as a gem for centuries and is mined all over the world. It is the most common form of garnet and comes in a dark red to reddish brown color. It has also been called almandine ruby, oriental garnet and carbuncle.

An uncommon phenomenon in almandine is asterism due to rutile needles (inclusions). It is given the trade name Star Garnet. It is found in Sri Lanka, India and the African nations.

PYROPE – from the Greek word "pyropos" which means "fiery". This is a well-known garnet. Pyrope comes in the range of deep red color to black which is most valuable and sought after. Significant amount of pyrope garnets have been mined in Colorado from the Bishop conglomerate and Cedar mountain in Wyoming. One variety of pyrope from North Carolina has been called Rhodolite which means rose.

SPESSARTINE – it was first found in the 1880s in Reuschberg, Spessart, a town in Germany. It is the most beautiful type of garnet with its clear intense yellow-orange colour. It is often traded as Mandarin garnet for its fiery color and brilliance. This garnet was believed to be able to lift a saddened soul, just like a prayer could.

GROSSULAR - its name is derived from the botanical name for gooseberry which looks like a pale blue-green ball. In its purest form, grossular garnet is colorless, but with impurities, it can turn into beautiful colors of cinnamon brown, yellow and red.

Grossular garnet from Kenya and Tanzania has been called tsavorite. Tsavorite was first described in the 1960s in the Tsavo area of Kenya, from which the gem takes its name. It is a stunningly vivid green color and is a very rare gemstone.

A variety of grossular is hessonite.

ANDRADITE - named after the Portuguese mineralogist D'Andrada. This is the most sparkly variety of the garnet family. It contains calcium and iron which give them the colours of red, brown, green, yellow and black. These stones were discovered in igneous rocks.

Varieties of andradite are:

topazolite (yellow or green)
demantoid (green) *
melanite (black)
depesalite (yellow)
jelletite (green)
pyreneite (black) - used in mourning jewelry by Europeans of the 19th century
aplome (dark brown)
kolophonite - dark honey-brown

* demantoid has been called the "emerald of the Urals" from its occurrence there, and is one of the most prized of garnet varieties.

Demantoid garnets from Russia, Italy and Iran can also contain "horsetail" inclusions. They look like fine golden hairs within the demantoid garnet. They are by far the most expensive of all the garnets.

UVAROVITE - this garnet was discovered in 1832 by Germain Henri Hess who named it after Count Sergei Semenovitch Uvarov (1765–1855), a Russian statesman and amateur mineral collector. It is a very rare and beautiful green garnet.

BLUE/COLOR CHANGING GARNETS - these unusual and stunning garnets were discovered in Madagascar in the 1990s. They have also been mined in Russia, Tanzania, Kenya and the United States. These spectacular garnets contain high amounts of vanadium and change from blueish green to purple depending on the light source used to view the stone. The color change garnets remain the rarest form of garnet and it resembles the alexandrite stone.

Garnets can come in a mixed series: pyrope-almandine-spessartine and uvarovite-grossular-andranite. These mixtures give rise to color changes.

Garnet was used by ancient Sumerians and Egyptians. As early as 3100 BC, Egyptians used garnet as inlays in their jewelry and carvings. Pharaohs wore red garnet necklaces to benefit from its mystical properties and they have also been found on the mummified remains of the Pharaohs.

Ancient Greeks and Romans traded red garnets from India and Sri Lanka. These gemstones were made into signet rings and intaglios. They were also used for stamping of wax seals on important documents.

During the Crusades of the 11th and 12th centuries, both Christians and Muslims used garnet as amulets for protection. During this time, Garnet was called the Warrior Stone.

Some Asiatic tribes were known to place garnet stones in wounds to encourage blood clotting. In 1892, Hunza tribes engaged in hostilities with the British on the Kashmir front used garnet bullets in their firearms. They believed that red-colored garnet bullets would make deadlier wounds than those made of lead.

Kabbalists and occultists, both Jewish and Christians, have used garnets and engraved them with the names of angels in Greek, Hebrew and other ancient languages.

The regalia of the Order of the Golden Fleece, a Roman Catholic order of chivalry founded in 1430 was made of red garnets and worn by Austrian royalty.

Garnet has been used since the Bronze Age. Garnets, more so the red variety, were used as a talisman of faithfulness and stability, of hope, of happiness and true friendship, of love, passion and romance. It was used as an amulet for protection from diseases and attacks on the road. It has been said that if put in the male private parts, garnet have the effect like Viagra on men.

Garnet was used to develop those inert human powers such as ESP. It was also a helper in occult understanding. It was believed that garnets had the power to banish evil spirits and evil forms of thinking and destroy deadly diseases such as plagues and rid of poisons in the body.

Another type of garnet, that we almost forgot to mention is the Anthill Garnets found in Arizona deserts. They are so called "anthill garnets" because they are found on and around the margins of ant hills. The ants encounter the garnets while excavating their underground passages. They then haul the stones to the surface and discard them.

These garnets are truly powerful and magical healers. In order for you to harness the enormous power of anthill garnets, a rattle has to be filled with them. The sound and vibration of the rattle and your chant, together will bring immense healing to yourself and your patients.

Garnet is a health talisman, called the Stone of Health. It detoxifies, restores and harmonizes your body, thus bringing inner peace.

Due to its intense red color, garnet has a strong relationship with blood. It helps in normalizing blood pressure, regulating heartbeat and stimulating blood flow to all parts of the body. It is beneficial in releasing the ills of arthritis and rheumatism.

The green variety of garnets bring vitality to life. They are considered as lucky charms. Note, the green garnets are the tsavorite, demantoid, and the uvarovite. The orange variety of garnet brings happiness and the purple garnet represents power, luxury, and nobility.

Garnet is the birthstone for January. However, do note that birthstone differs from country to country and culture to culture.

Present day birthchart was created in the United states in 1912 by the gemstone industry. As written about the many varieties of garnets, not to mention the names that were known differently during the ancient times, garnets (and other gemstones) have been mistaken for other gems. Furthermore, the astrological chart for gemstones differs in different cultures. For example, there is a big difference between the birthstone chart created in the United States and the much older version created in India. Further research has to be done regarding your birthstone.

Garnets as in all gemstones must be held and treated with utmost respect and dignity.