Garnet Stone | Properties and Photos
Garnet | Rock Forming Mineral
Garnet is a rock forming mineral that's best known as a red coloured gemstone although there are several varieties and many different colours. Whilst all share a common crystal structure and have very similar physical properties, their chemical composition is not the same. As well as red, garnet can also be green, pink, yellow, orange, brown, black or even colourless. The main difference apart from colour is density and refractive index which is a measurement of light used with certain minerals.
Almandine and pyrope are the most common varieties of garnet but the colour difference between the two is minimal and can only really be seen in the finest grade gemstones. Pyrope whose name comes from the Greek word 'pyropos' meaning 'fiery-eyed' only occurs in shades of red and is often found associated with diamond. In the Kimberley region of South Africa where this variety of garnet is mined, it's known as the 'Cape Ruby'.
Spessartine also known as mandarin garnet because of its vivid orange colour is one of the rarest varieties whose name comes from the region of Spessart in Bavaria, southern Germany. Grossular garnet in its purest form is clear and colourless but often contains impurities which cause stones to exhibit many different colours. The name comes from the Greek word 'grossularia' meaning 'gooseberry' because its colour and shape can sometimes resemble a gooseberry. Tsavorite which is the most highly sought after variety of grossular garnet exhibits a vivid green colour and was discovered as recently as 1968 in Tanzania. In 1971 it was also discovered in Kenya and was subsequently named after the Tsavo National Park by American jewellery company Tiffany & Co who were the first to market it. Virtually all tsavorite is found in east Africa a region rich in vanadium which is the trace element that gives garnet and occasionally emerald their colour.
Demantoid garnet is one of the rarest and most valuable varieties whose name comes from the Dutch word 'demant' meaning 'diamond' because of its impressive fire or brilliance. It was first discovered in 1868 and quickly became popular with jewellers including Carl Fabergé and Tiffany & Co. Demantoid garnet was also popular during the Victorian era and with Russian Tsars.
Garnets which have been found in Bronze Age excavations are believed to be one of the world's most ancient gemstones. They have been traced to the Nile Delta in 3100 B.C. where Ancient Egyptian artisans are known to have created beads, bracelets and other items of jewellery. Orange grossular garnet which is also known as hessonite was also used for jewellery in Ancient Greece and Rome as well as for cameos and intaglios. Red varieties were once included in the group known as carbuncle which is an ancient name for any blood-red coloured translucent gemstone that had been cut as a cabochon. The name however referred particularly to garnet. At one time all dark red stones were considering to be the same mineral.
Garnets were widely traded in Carthage (Tunisia) during early Roman times where they were believed to have strong curative powers and were also used for hundreds of years as an abrasive. Stones are still widely used today as abrasives because they're relatively hard, have sharp edges and once crushed are perfect for cutting and sanding.
The high priest breastplate was a religious garment worn by the Jewish high priest during biblical times that was adorned with twelve precious gemstones each of which was inscribed with one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Carbuncle is believed to have been the third stone in the first row.
Almandine also known as the 'Ceylon Ruby' has been popular in jewellery since at least Roman times and was referenced by Pliny the Elder Roman author, naturalist and natural philosopher.
The name garnet originates from the Greek word 'granatus' meaning 'seed like' which refers to a red seed that was mostly associated with the pomegranate. Throughout history because of its deep red colour the mineral has often been mistaken for ruby.
In years gone by garnet was used as an amulet by travellers because it was believed to preserve health and honour, cure the wearer of diseases and offer protection against perils encountered during the journey. Many explorers and travellers who carried it believed it would illuminate the night sky. It's now known that garnet's luminosity is caused by its high refraction of light.
Birthstone for the Month of January
When used in crystal healing garnet is said to be powerfully energising, highly protective and has the ability to warn of approaching danger. It's a useful companion during a crisis and can help in situations where there seems to be no way out. It strengthens the instinct of survival bringing courage and hope and is particularly beneficial for attracting love, dreaming and metabolism. Considered to be a 'stone of health' which cleanses and re-energises the chakras, it balances sex drive and alleviates emotional disharmony.
Grading 6½ to 7½ on Mohs scale of mineral hardness means that it's quite hard which is why it's long been used as an abrasive. Stones are rarely ever heat treated to enhance or change their colour and when used as a gemstone it tends to be faceted. Birthstone for the month of January, garnet was spotted in a ring being worn by Kate Middleton whose birthday is January 9th early on in her relationship with Prince William. It also featured pearl which is William's birthstone.
All three photographs in this article are clickable and redirect to the original image. The first two are courtesy of Stan Celestian (Flickr), the third which was taken by Stone Mania is on display in London's Natural History Museum.
Our Collection of Garnet