The Colorful World of Garnets


Most of the time, when people think of garnets, they think of the color red; however, garnets come in almost every color of the rainbow!

The name “garnet” came from the Latin word “granatum”, meaning ‘grain’ or ‘seed’. It was thought to be in reference to a pomegranate since small red garnets seemed to resemble the bright red seeds found inside. Garnets are also one of the few untreated gems.


Historically, garnets have been used as adornments for decorative or ceremonial purposes for thousands of years across many continents and civilizations. The Egyptians, as far back as 3100 B.C., were known to use garnets inlaid in jewelry. During the middle ages, the clergy and the nobility preferred red garnets. Around 1500, the availability of red garnets increased significantly when well-known Bohemian garnet deposit discoveries were made in central Europe. This was the main source of stones used for the jewelry industry in that region through the late Victorian era when the industry reached its highest point in the late 1800’s.


All the garnet varieties are easiest to consider by thinking of them in terms of color. The most common are:
1. Pyrope: Deep, rich red to reddish-brown
2. Tsavorite: Bright green to emerald green
3. Rhodolite: Purplish-red to rose-color pink
4. Spessartite: Orange to red-brown

The most valuable, expensive, and rare garnet and the prize of the green color garnets is the variety called demantoid (meaning diamond-like). It is known for its stunning brilliance and luminosity with colors ranging from yellowish-green to emerald green.

A fun fact: between 1882 and 1944, Garnet was in the top 1,000 names given to both girls and boys, peaking in popularity during the 1910’s. Garnets are recognized as the birthstone for January and as the 2nd Anniversary gemstone.

Ranking 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, garnets have fair to good durability and hold up well in all styles of jewelry when treated with proper care. Caution would need to be taken against rough wear or exposure to hard blows. Cleanup is best with warm soapy water and a soft brush.

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