The name of this radiant gemstone is believed to have originated from two different words – ‘gernet’, which means ‘dark red’ in Middle English and the Latin term ‘garanatus’ that stands for ‘seed-like’. These references aptly describe the appearance of this gem as small garnets do resemble the bright red seeds of a pomegranate.
While red is the most common color that is associated with a garnet, it is certainly not the only one this gem is available in. Garnets are also found in an assortment of other stunning hues, such as yellow, orange, peach, green, purple, blue (extremely rare), brown and pink.
This gemstone is different from other minerals, such as corundum and beryl that are primarily individual species with colored varieties caused by trace elements. Garnets, on the other hand, come in a variety of species and blends. In exceptional cases, they also occur in color changing varieties. These garnets display a different color in daylight and another color under incandescent lighting.
The six main garnet types used in jewelry include almandite, pyrope, rhodolite, spessartite, demantoid and grossularite. While all varieties of garnets vary in chemical composition, their crystal structure and properties remain the same.
This stunning gemstone is formed under exceptionally high temperatures in metamorphic rocks and sometimes in igneous rocks as well. Garnet mines are commonly found in Tanzania, China, Russia, Canada and the United States. It’s important to note that the price of a garnet is influenced by its type, rather than its source of origin.
Pink and red colored gemstones, including garnet, are typically associated with three main elements – the heart, blood and passion. This deep red gem is believed to possess an array of powers, including the ability to be an antidote to poison. Garnet is also the birthstone for those born in the month of January and the gem for the second wedding anniversary.
According to Biblical mythology, Noah used a garnet lantern to guide his ark through the darkness. This gem was also used as a talisman by explorers to protect them from unforeseen disasters.
A garnet is believed to have many physical benefits when worn in close contact with the body. In addition to depression and fatigue, it’s also said to be helpful in treating blood deficiency diseases as it’s considered to stimulate the bloodstream. Many still vouch for a garnet’s mystical powers to exhilarate the soul, foretell misfortunes and combat the effects of negative energies.
Hardness & Strength
Garnets are relatively tough gemstones, which makes them durable enough for almost all types of jewelry. The hardness of a garnet depends on its type/variety and can therefore range from 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale. While demantoid is a bit softer, other varieties such as almandine, pyrope, spessartine, and tsavorite are on the harder side.
A crucial factor that adds to the appeal of garnets is that they are rarely subjected to synthetic processes. While the color and clarity of most gemstones are enhanced by various treatments, such as irradiation, heat and diffusion, a garnet remains unaffected by the same. Most of the garnets available in the market today are most likely to be 100% natural. Their ready availability further reduces the need for creation through artificial means.
Quality & Grading
Garnets are alluring gemstones coveted for their color and luster. The below-mentioned factors help determine the value of this gem:
Garnet occurs in a wide array of species and colors, yet most of them are red and display fragments of a deeper red on the inside. This gemstone’s color, saturation and brilliance depend on the variety it belongs to. Here’s a look at the color and characteristics of the six main types of garnets.
- Almandite Garnet/Almandine: The presence of aluminum silicate gives this deep red garnet a violet tint. Considered to be a symbol of compassion and peace, an almandine or almandite garnet is typically sourced from India, Sri Lanka and the United States.
- Pyrope: This abundantly found type of garnet occurs in colors ranging from purplish-red to dark, blood-red. It is mined in China, Madagascar, Myanmar, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and the United States. As it occurs frequently in nature, Pyrope – a magnesium or calcium aluminium silicate, is relatively inexpensive.
- Rhodolite: This is a well-known variety of garnet that displays an attractive rose-red or purple-red hue. Rhodolite is often eye-clean, which means it is free from flaws and inclusions visible to the naked eye; a quality that has considerably added to its popularity. A derivative of pyrope, rhodolite is inexpensive and is mined in Brazil, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
- Spessartite: This particular variety of garnet showcases colors that range from fiery orange to reddish-brown. It’s commonly found in Spessart – a mountain range in Germany, which is also the place where it gets its name from. Other sources of this gemstone include Myanmar, India, Afghanistan, Israel, Australia, Madagascar, Tanzania, and the United States. The most valuable quality of spessarite is sourced from Namibia. It is called the "Mandarine Spessartine" and radiates a vibrant red-orange color.
- Demantoid: This light-green variety of garnet is known for its intense brilliance and is found in the Ural Mountains in Russia. One of the most valuable and stunning garnets in existence, a demantoid is derived from the mineral andradite. It gets its name from the Dutch word “demant”, which means diamonds. A demantoid garnet may have inclusions, just like a natural diamond.
- Grossularite: Chemically, a grossularite is a blend of aluminum and calcium. It has three subcategories:
- Tsavorite: A valuable garnet with a green or emerald green hue
- Hydrogrossular: Opaque and greenish in hue
- Leuco: A colorless grossularite garnet
The quality of this gemstone depends on its type. The red variety of garnets is typically eye-clean; they do not have visible inclusions. However, an almandine garnet (part of the red category) sometimes has asbestos fiber inclusions, which give it a star-like effect and is therefore treasured for its rarity. Furthermore, some of the orange varieties like a spessartite, for instance, often have eye-visible inclusions. The grossularite garnets are typically translucent, making them a popular choice for cabochons, beads and carvings.
Garnets are relatively tough and can be cut into almost any shape. A well-cut garnet will display dozens of symmetrical facets, and will also minimize inclusions. The more common red garnets tend to be carved into standard shapes with ovals, cushions, trillions and emerald cuts being the most common. The more valuable garnets, like a tsavorite, are cut into shapes that retain maximum carat weight.
Garnets are found in various dimensions and shapes. However, it is rare to find a tsavorite and demantoid in large sizes; this results in a significant peak in their value. Other varieties of garnets, like almandine, are not relatively expensive as they are commonly available in larger sizes.
Even though there is no standard quality grading parameter for garnets, the intense red variety of this gemstone can be further classified into the following categories based on the above mentioned properties.
The gemstones in this category comprise of the top 1% of exceptionally rare garnets. They exhibit the eye-clean property, which refers to flawless brilliance. These garnets can be distinguished from the others with their rich red color.
Almost 10% of all garnets available belong to this category. These gemstones do not have eye-visible inclusions and display a medium red hue.
This category includes the top 33% of garnets. They are dark to medium red in color and have slight inclusions.
Dark red in color, this category includes the top 75% of available garnets that have slight to moderate inclusions.
A garnet's toughness ranges between fair to good, making it a durable option for all jewelry styles as long as it is treated with proper care.
- Keep your garnet jewelry away from other gemstones to avoid scratches and friction.
- Garnets should not be subjected to hard blows or rough wear.
- Sudden temperature change should be avoided as it may induce fractures in the gem.
- Always remove your garnet jewelry when engaging in sports, rigorous outdoor activities or even household work.
- Keep away from harsh chemicals like household cleaners, makeup removers and hairsprays.
- Use a mild soap and warm water solution to clean your garnet jewelry. Ensure that you rinse properly to get rid of soapy residue. Wipe dry with a soft cotton cloth.
- Ultrasonic treatments can be utilized for cleaning most garnets, but must be particularly avoided for the demantoid variety. Steam cleaning, however, is not recommended for garnet jewelry.
- While storing, wrap your garnet jewelry in a soft cloth or place it in a fabric-lined box.
Given the popularity of garnets in the gemstone and jewelry industry, it's not difficult to find a high-quality yet affordable stone. No matter which variety you opt for, always choose a garnet that sparkles and reflects light evenly across the entire gem.