As one of the oldest gemstones known to man, garnet has inspired many legends and popular associations with vitality, love, and friendship. Commonly associated with the color red, it is both the traditional and modern birthstone for January, as well as the gemstone that represents the second wedding anniversary.
Learn all about January’s birthstone from our guide below, which includes the history, properties, and varieties of garnets.
Frequently mistaken for ruby due to its deep red color, garnet is the collective name for a group of minerals that possess the same physical properties and crystal forms but differ in their chemical composition. The diversity of these mineral species means that garnets are not only available in red but come in a wide array of other colors as well, including orange, yellow, green, and blue.
Fun fact: The name ‘garnet’ comes from the Latin word for pomegranate seed.
Garnet has been used in jewelry and other decorative objects since ancient and medieval times.
Some of the earliest examples of garnet jewelry have been unearthed from Egyptian tombs dating as far back as the Bronze Age. Other examples date back to the Middle Ages and include garnet signet rings and other jewelry from ancient Greece and Rome. The Victorian era produced some of the most beautiful garnet jewelry pieces, with clusters of tiny red gems forming part of a larger statement piece.
The widespread popularity of this gemstone throughout ancient times is likely owed to its perceived supernatural ability to protect the wearer from harm. As such, garnet has been worn as a good luck charm or talisman by people from cultures all over the world.
Today, the January birthstone is still as popular as ever and can be found in a wide range of jewelry designs.
As mentioned above, most people associate the January birthstone with a deep red color. However, garnet is actually available in almost every color on the spectrum, from brown to orange, to yellow, to green. There also exists a variety of color-changing garnet from countries like Tanzania, Kenya, and Madagascar. These remarkable gemstones transform from blue in fluorescent light to a deep purple hue in incandescent light.
Garnet has a medium hardness of 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale, meaning it is prone to scratches. That being said, garnet is not a brittle gem and is still suitable for daily wear. It does not chip easily and holds up well in a variety of jewelry settings.
Since ancient times, red garnets have symbolically been associated with a person’s life force and are thought to possess many healing properties.
In a metaphysical sense, red garnet gemstones are said to cleanse and revitalize the energy, bringing about mental clarity and boosting creativity. The January birthstone also balances the sex drive and inspires love and devotion.
There are over 20 varieties of garnet. However, only five are commercially important. There is a sixth, uvarovite, but this species is extremely rare and any facetable material is usually too small to cut.
Here is a brief overview of the six main species of garnet:
In nature, most garnets don’t form as a single pure species. In other words, they consist of two or more varieties blended together. For pyrope garnets, the purest gem-quality specimen ever found contained around 83% pyrope. The other 17% was made up of other species of garnet. The same is true for almandine and grossular garnets. However, some specimens have been found from the spessartite and andradite varieties that were as high as 95% pure.
The following species are known to blend:
Due to the tremendous range of overlapping between species, it is not possible to identify a garnet based on its color alone. Therefore, note that the information contained in the following section is for reference only.
Rhodolite garnet has a distinctive reddish-purple hue that’s sure to resonate with many of those with a birthday in January. These beautiful gems also occur in shades of pink and violet, so you’ll have no shortage of options when choosing a gem from this variety.
If you find yourself drawn to warm colors, the orange to reddish-orange gems from the spessartite variety might appeal to you. Known as Mandarin garnets, these stones are highly prized for their vivid orange hue.
Though best known for the green garnet variety demantoid, andradite is also available in a bright yellow hue sometimes called topazolite. Similarly, hessonite garnets, which are widely known for their cinnamon-red color, are also available in attractive shades of yellow.
If you’re looking for an exciting alternative to the traditional red color that most people associate with the January birthstone, consider the rare tsavorite or demantoid garnet. Tsavorite garnet comes in a rich green hue that’s easily mistaken for emerald, while demantoid garnets can exhibit a fire that exceeds diamond.
Though the phenomenon of color-changing gemstones is most commonly associated with alexandrite, a member of the chrysoberyl family, a variety of color-changing garnet has also been discovered in recent decades. These remarkable gems have been found in the countries of Kenya, Madagascar, and Tanzania, and transform from blue in daylight to a rich reddish purple in incandescent light.
If the garnet birthstone just doesn’t resonate with you, rose quartz is the alternative birthstone for January. With its blushing pink hue, this variety of quartz is often viewed as a universal symbol of love and will be popular for years to come.
Garnets are commonly red gemstones, but they also come in a variety of other colors including orange, yellow, green, brown, and even colorless.
Initially discovered in Ancient Egypt, garnet is found all over the world today.
Given the tremendous variety of garnets that are available on the market, the price of these gemstones can vary dramatically. Some rare varieties, like tsavorites and demantoids, can command very high prices, while others, like almandine garnets, are more readily available and, therefore, more affordable.
While diamond remains the most popular choice for engagement rings, garnet engagement rings are not unheard of and can be especially meaningful if the wearer was born in January. Red garnet engagement rings are also romantic due to their association with love and their sensual red hue can be symbolic of the passion that a couple shares for each other.
While red garnets are frequently mistaken for rubies, the two gemstones couldn’t be more different. For starters, rubies are considered a 9 on the Mohs Scale of mineral hardness, which is closer to a diamond, while January’s birthstone has a rating between 6.5 and 7.5. In other words, garnet is far more prone to scratches and dents than ruby. Another difference between the two is their saturation; a garnet’s color will usually pale in comparison to the vivid red of a ruby.
Garnet has been associated with strength and safety since its discovery in ancient times. It is also thought to have many cleansing properties that help the wearer to release negative emotions and boosts self-confidence.
The best way to clean your garnet jewelry is by using warm soapy water and a soft brush. Garnets can be heat sensitive, so it is important to avoid exposing them to extreme heat. Steam cleaning is, therefore, not recommended.
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