Birthstones can be a simple romantic gift or a grandiose symbolic gesture.
They contain untold powers that have fascinated people for thousands of years. The wearing of birthstones is said to bring good luck, health benefits, and even protection from the supernatural.
If you are lucky enough to be born in the first month of the year, Aquarius is the eleventh astronomical sign of the zodiac, and its corresponding birthstone, the garnet, is the birthstone for January.
Let's take a look at its rich history and why we place such a high value on the precious stone.
What Is Garnet?
The word garnet is thought to have originated from the old English word "Gernet," meaning dark red. It may have been derived from the Latin word "Granatus," which means pomegranate. It's easy to identify the tiny red seeds inside the fruit that resembles the precious red stone.
However, garnets are not defined by the colour red as most people believe but are found in a vast array of colours, including blues and greens. Some rarer stones even have colour changing properties. In candescent light, their appearance can magically change from green to purple before your very eyes.
Garnets are a group of silicate minerals that we know have been in use since the Bronze Age as gemstones and abrasives. All types of garnets possess similar physical properties, but the various species are differentiated by their chemical composition, which consequently produces their varying colours.
In the past, red garnets have been commonly used in jewellery and have been found at archaeological sites the world over. In England in particular, they have been inlaid in gold cells in the Cloisonné technique which has now been made famous at historic Anglo-Saxon sites like Sutton Hoo and Staffordshire. The treasures found at these sites mentioned above are some of the best-known examples of Anglo-Saxon regalia in the world.
The garnet birthstone is truly beautiful and captivating. Keep reading if you would like to know more.
The Changing Colours of Garnet
Green Demantoid Garnet
A particularly rare form of garnet is called the Demantoid. "Deman" is the Dutch word for Diamond. The stone has a diamond-like brilliance due to its high refractive index and its high dispersion (its ability to separate light into the spectrum of colours).
Demantoid is a variety of andradite garnet and is green in colour. It was discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia in the mid-1800s by a group of children playing in the heavy spring runoff of the Bobrovka River.
It is considered to be the rarest type of garnet and commands significant prices. They are usually found in smaller sizes and typically less than 2 carats.
Demantoids were a favourite of Carl Fabergé and were the darling of the Tsars of Russia until the mining of it was prohibited during the Bolshevik Revolution. These gemstones have become rarer still because Russian sourced examples are impossible to find nowadays.
Orange Mandarin Garnet
Garnets are not local to Russia; brilliant orange coloured Garnets were first mined in Namibia during the 1990s. Because of their distinctive orange colour, they have come to be known as Mandarin Garnets and are extremely valuable.
Red Pyrope Garnet
Bohemia is a historical country that was part of Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1939 and was famous for its production of red pyrope garnet jewellery up until the late 19th century. Pyrope gems are the reddest of all garnets, and seldom are more substantial than a few carats. Pyrope is often confused with ruby, due to its fiery red colour, and derives its name from the Greek pyropes, meaning "fire-like."
Sutton Hoo Helmet
During 1939 in Suffolk a 7th-century tomb was discovered during an excavation of a ship burial. It contained an ornate helmet. Comprising of an iron cap, a neck guard, and a face mask, decorated with images of animals and warriors in copper-alloy and set with garnets. It is one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries ever made and is the most significant Anglo-Saxon artefact ever found.
The Staffordshire Hoard
The hoard is made up of 3,490 metal fragments made of gold and silver. They contain 3,500 cloisonné garnets. The find usurped the Sutton Hoo artefacts and is the most significant treasure of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver objects discovered to date.
The Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom
Originally called the Crown Jewels of England, the collection consists of 140 royal ceremonial objects. They are said to be priceless and are kept under lock and key at the Tower of London.
The regalia contain 23,578 stones, and amongst some of the largest and most expensive diamonds and gems in the world, you will, of course, find some of the rarest garnets in existence.
The Kuntz Garnet
This Palaeozoic Almandine Garnet is one of the largest ever discovered on earth and was strangely unearthed while excavating a sewer during routine maintenance underneath the New York City subway. It's more commonly known as the Subway Garnet and is estimated to be 430 million years old. The stone weighs more than 9lbs and is a fantastic find. Still, sadly, it can only be viewed by appointment as the American Museum of Natural History have relegated it to its storage department.
The Antique Pyrope Hair Comb
Originally from mines in Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic, Bohemian pyropes garnets adorn this Victorian hair comb. It was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1937.
Garnet Properties and Healing Powers
Not only is garnet jewellery highly sought by high fashion enthusiasts, but it also has strong curative powers and protective energies, which make it invaluable for many people.
Garnet is known for utilising creative energy. It harnesses the spirit within the body and enhances the ability to work passionately on the physical plane. Garnet is regarded as a stimulating stone. It conjures up the primordial fire, evokes feelings of passion and provides purification. The stone will encourage strong and intense feelings.
There is an excellent reason that a garnet provided the only light on Noah's ark. The stone represents light, faith, truth, honour and loyalty.
During the Middle Ages, garnets were used to amplify truth, religion and constancy, and to dispel melancholy. It also had a reputation as a Warrior's Stone. Garnets served as a talisman for both the Muslims and Christians during the Crusades.
Blood coloured garnets have been said to confer invulnerability from wounds on the battlefield while simultaneously used as weapons by indigenous tribes. The rebellious Hanzas launched garnets from their sling bows believing the blood-coloured stone would inflict deadly injuries on the British troops on the Kashmir frontier.
The stone has held deep, rich historical and religious meaning for hundreds of years for cultures like Native American Indians, the Aztecs, African tribal elders, and of course, the Mayans.
Garnet is a powerful revitalising stone. It purifies and energises all the chakras. It cleans and balances energy, bringing calm and passion when you need it the most. Garnet inspires passion and steadfast dedication. It balances the sexual impulses and lessens emotional disharmony. The January birthstone is a material symbolising a commitment to a person or an idea.
Almandine garnet gets its name from the town of Almandine in Asia Minor. It can be found as far and wide as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Brazil and the Czech Republic.
This stone can repair your body and help you recover from injury. It serves to cast out bad energy, worry and panic.
It is also known as Melanite, a name derived from the Greek word for 'black'. It is believed to help strengthen the immune system and to keep energy levels constant. It's an excellent stimulant for people who are pessimistic and are likely to have feelings of self-doubt, depression or even suicidal thoughts. It can also guard against addiction.
Its name is derived from the Latin word for gooseberries, due to its distinctive colour.
This stone will help you to overcome money worries and will help you to feel thankful and lucky for the great things you already have in your life. It will increase zest for living, entice you to feel charitable and conjure feelings of benevolence.
This stone emanates self-respect, eliminating guilty feelings and the inferiority complex. It encourages you when seeking out new challenges. Hessonite garnet is known for improving psychic abilities. It helps to control hormone production and reduces the problems associated with infertility and impotence.
Are You Looking For Garnet Jewellery?
Were you born in January or do you have a relative or a loved one who is a January baby? Pick out an exquisite piece of January birthstone jewellery. Treat someone to a spectacular trinket with inlaid blood-red or green stones and start experiencing the powerful benefits that garnet can provide.
I've been creating handmade and bespoke jewellery for over 40 years using precious and semi-precious stones, including the magnificent Garnet. Take a look at my range of handmade jewellery, and please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss a customisation or bespoke piece.