Garnet Gemstones - The Most Beautiful Gemstone Family
The wonderful thing about garnets is that they are in most cases, one of the most affordable gemstones in the world. The red varieties are plentiful and inexpensive. The more rare colors while not as plentiful are still in many cases more affordable on a per carat price basis than other colored gemstones.
Garnets Come in A Huge Variety of Colors
What many people don't realize is the range of colors in which garnet comes. There is the rich deep red that most people are familiar with; then there is the green of the tsavorite garnet (which is being used as an accent gemstone more and more frequently because they make an excellent choice as an emerald substitute) or there are yellow, orange, pink, purple and clear (white) colors of garnet. There are even color shift and change garnets. The color change greenish-blue to violet-red have the color of the much more expensive alexandrite.
A Family of Beautiful Gemstones In Colors That Will Tickle Everyone's Fancy
Garnet is actually a family (group) of minerals. They are a family of complex silicate minerals in which each branch of the family is a slightly different combination of chemical elements but they all have the same cubic crystal form/structure. Think of a family of cousins. The garnets used in jewelry are almandine, andradite, grossular, pyrope and uvarovite. Some may find it interesting that when some garnets were formed in the earth, there was a "melding" or intermingling of elements and one can find garnets that are a mixture of two or three garnet types. A soupçon of this element or a dash more of another element can create an entirely different color garnet.
Loose Garnet Gems Are Often Sold By Trade Names
To further confuse things, some garnets are not sold by jewelers by their scientific names but they are sold under their trade names. For example, when one just says "garnet" one is usually talking about either red garnet. Red garnet is typically either pyrope or almandine garnet but Mozambique red garnet is a combination of almandine AND pyrope garnet as is rhodolite garnet. The last 100+ years have shown us that garnet comes in many more colors than just red, colors which are a result of that melding / intermingling. For example, rhodolite garnet was first identified in the late 1800. Umbalite garnet was first discovered in 1978 and grape garnet was first identified in the 1990s more than 100 years later than rhodolite. Both are types of rhodolite garnets and each has been found in only one location (so far) on earth. Umbalite (pale purple) is only found in Tanzania's Umba Valley and grape garnet (the color of good amethyst) is found in the Indian state of Orissa. Who knows where the next discovery of a new color type of garnet will be?
Garnet in History and Lore - What A Long and Short History It Is
Garnet has a long history. Red garnet has been carved into decorative form, has been inlaid or set into things like sword hilts and shields and set into jewelry throughout history. According to the ancient Jewish text the Talmud, a garnet provided the only source of light on Noah's Ark. Garnet was also a symbol of one of the original 12 tribes of Israel and a birthstone. Some Asiatic tribes fashioned garnets into bullets believing that they would be more lethal than lead bullets. Like all gemstones, they go in and out of fashion. For example, they were very fashionable in Victorian jewelry. And when tsavorite green garnet and grape garnet first came on the market, they took the gemstone world by storm.
Like the start of a New Year, the pomegranate has long symbolized freshness, health and rejuvenation. The etymology of the word garnet dates back to least the 14th century and means pomegranate. That makes sense because of the red-brown color of pomegranate seeds and juice and the only garnets known thousands of years ago were red or red-brown.
Mystical Uses of Gemstone Garnets
For those who believe in the mystical uses of gemstones, garnet is supposed to help ground emotions, cure depression, give courage (remember it was used in sword hilts and in shields), protect against nightmares, purify the blood, regulate the heart and blood flow, stimulate success in business, bring popularity to the wearer, give the wearer self-esteem, protect one on trips, bring constancy to friendships, is a symbol of love and compassion.
Garnet is the birthstone for those born in January and it is the zodiac gemstone for those born under the sign of Aquarius. It is the gemstone for the 2nd and 6th wedding anniversaries.
Types and Colors of Garnet - Which Color Is Your Favorite?
There are at least 13 types of garnet, but not all garnet is suitable for use in jewelry. The types of garnet most used in jewelry are almandine (almandite), andradite, grossular, pyrope and spessartite (spessartine).
is typically deep red to reddish-brown. It can sometimes have a violet or brown hue. The term common garnet usually refers to brownish-red, opaque almandine that is used in industrial settings. Precious garnet refers to a deep red, transparent almandine that is suitable for use in jewelry. Almandine garnet is sometimes called Oriental Garnet.
can be yellow, green, orange, reddish-brown, brown, gray, black and sometimes (rarely) colorless or white. Demantoid garnet is the emerald green to green transparent variety of this type of garnet that is suitable for use in jewelry. Demantoid garnet is very highly prized and one of the rarest of the garnets. Demantoid was first identified in Russia in 1853. Russian mining of demantoid has essentially ceased but in 1997 there was a new find of demantoid garnet in Namibia.
can be colorless, white, green, yellow, pink, brown, orange and orange-red in color. The member of this branch of the garnet family that is typically used in jewelry is tsavorite which is a chromium-rich emerald-green variety of grossular garnet. It was first discovered in the early 1960s in Kenya and Tanzania and was named by Tiffany's. It is currently only found and mined in Kenya and Tanzania and tsavorite in carat weights over 2 carats are rare with carat weights of over 5 carats almost non-existent.
like almandine, has been around forever and is one of the most common garnets. It is deep red to nearly black and can occasionally be rose-red to violet in color. In the past, pyrope has also been called Bohemian garnet, Colorado ruby, California ruby, Rocky Mounty ruby, Elie ruby, Bohemian carbuncle and Cape ruby but use of these names is strongly discouraged by the Gemological Institute of America.
Spessartite (spessartine) Garnet
can be found in brown, orange, pink and brownish-red. The first deposits of orange spessartite were found in Germany in the 1990s. Spessartite garnet is currently mined in Nigeria, Ramona (California) and Namibia. One will often hear the gem trade name of Mandarin, malaia or tangerine used to refer to the best of this popular garnet.
Check out the "family tree" below for a more visual picture of how the elements may intermingle to create the beautiful colors of garnet
Because garnet comes in so many different types and colors, evaluating a garnet can be a little more difficult than it is with other gemstones. Color, cut and rarity are the most important issues.
Garnet Cut - The cut and "make" (proportions) are very important when evaluation a garnet. If the make of the gemstone is not good, the garnet will appear dull and lifeless.
Garnet Hue - The hue of a garnet will very much depend on the type of garnet. As a general rule of thumb, it's probably best to look for a primary color in the 65% - 80% with any secondary hue (if there is any) in the 20% - 35% range.
Garnet Tone - Here again the tone will primarily depend on the type of garnet. As a general rule, garnet with a tone in around the 60% - 85% range are probably best because garnets that are below 60% may appear washed out and those above 85% will appear overly dark.
Garnet Saturation - Saturation ranges from "grayish / brown" to "vivid". Think intensity here. There are 6 levels of saturation with 1 being the most gray / brown and 6 being the most vivid. One must also consider the lighting source when evaluating the saturation. Some garnet colors actually improve under incandescent but some may pick up a dark gray / brown / black mask. For example, if considering a malaia garnet, a brownish mask may not be a bad thing. The brown might actually be perceived as a secondary hue if it is highly saturated. In that case, it is the total visual effect that one must consider.
Garnet Carat Weight - Some in the garnet family frequently come in sizes up to 20 carats and more. Some don't get much above 1 carat in weight. It will all depend on the type of garnet you are considering. For example, the greater percentage of tsavorite garnets are less than one carat in size and tsavorite over 3 carats are considered very rare. It has been estimated that tsavorite over ten carats are about one tenth of one percent of total production. But Mozambique garnets can frequently be found in in larger sizes at very affordable prices.
Garnet Clarity - Garnet is a Type II gemstone and may contain inclusions but the best will be eye clean. There are garnets that contain rutile inclusions that create a star (asterism) effect. These garnets are very, very rare.
Garnet on Mohs Scale - Garnet is rated between 6.5 and 7.5 on the scale. The actual rating will depend on the type of garnet. They are very suitable for use in jewelry and generally are not brittle. For example, tsavorite is rated between 6.5 and 7 and emerald is rated 7.5 to 8. But emerald is more brittle and is well known for chipping but tsavorite is tougher not prone to some of the issues with emeralds.
Garnet Treatments - Garnets usually undergo no treatment, although their has been reports of demantoid garnets being heat treated.
Garnet Imposters and Synthetics - synthetic garnets are not commonly used in jewelry but are used in industrial settings. Some are useful in lasers. Yttrium aluminium garnet - commonly known as YAG was a clear synthetic garnet that was commonly used as a diamond substitute until cubic zirconia was commercially available in the 1970. Since cubic zirconia is a better brighter diamond substitute YAG has fallen out of favor for use in jewelry.
Red Garnet, Tsavorite, Rhodolite, Demantoid, Spessartite, Grossular, Tangerine, Other Varieities
Loose natural garnet gemstones, the birthstone for January are one of nature’s most amazing creations. When asked what color is garnet, most people would say red. This is very far from reality. One nature’s miracles are the incredible vast array of colors that garnets can posses, which is unparalleled in any gemstone species accept tourmaline. The only color garnet has not been found in is the color blue. In the past 40 years spectacular garnet discoveries have been made of new fabulous colors, mainly in Africa. Garnets can occur in all colors except for blue. The supply of these new garnet gemstones is ample and ever expanding. Garnets have become a mainstay and favorite of high end jewelry designers. Garnets are also one of the most interesting and complex gem species in nature, consisting of more than ten different gemstones of very similar chemical makeups. All of the different garnet gemstones offer excellent hardness, 7.5 on the Mohs scale, posses no cleavage but what is most wonderful about them is their high refractive index. This is the reason that the fine Tsavorite can rival the finest emeralds and the fiery brilliance of a spessartite garnet is as mesmerizing as the best sunsets. Our selection of garnets includes the following; Tsavorite, Rhodolite, Spessartite, Grossular, Malaia, - and our newest Tangerine.
Garnet Gemstone History and Lore
Garnet gemstones have been used in jewelry and other ways for many thousands of years. According to the ancient Jewish text the Talmud, a garnet provided the only source of light on Noah's Ark. Garnet jewelry has been found in Egyptian, Greek and Roman ruins. Garnet was also a symbol of one of the original 12 tribes of Israel and a birthstone. Some Asiatic tribes fashioned garnets into bullets believing that they would be more lethal than lead bullets. Garnet is also believed to protect its wearer from evil and disaster. The word garnet comes from a Latin word meaning pomegranate. A thriving garnet jewelry and cutting industry based on the very popular red pyrope garnets was started in Czechoslovakia in 1500. Until the nineteenth century it was the world’s largest source of gem garnets. These fiery red pyrope garnets were very popular in Victorian jewelry. The discovery of a bright green Grossular garnet in East Africa in the late 1960’s that was named “Tsavorite” by the Tiffany’s jewelry firm that also named and popularized the blue lavender zoisite gemstone as Tanzanite. This very exciting discovery brought the gemstone and jewelry industries a new color of garnet that can rival emerald in its luminescent green color. The discovery of a fiery orange variety of spessartite garnet on the Angola-Namibian border in the 1980’s also rocked the gemstone and jewelry world. The incredible radiant orange garnet, the likes of which had never been seen before was a major development in bringing garnet to the forefront of exciting gemstones.
Garnet Gemstone Sources and Occurrences
Garnet is formed in a variety of metamorphic and igneous rock formations. The best quality gems usually are found in alluvial deposits. The major sources of almandite are Mozambique, India and Brazil. Rhodolite was originally discovered in North Carolina but the major source for fine gems is Tanzania and also Sri Lanka. Spessartite occurs in Zambia (most recent), Namibia, Nigeria, Madagascar and California. Grossular, color change, Tsavorite and Malaia are all found in east Africa. Demantoid garnet, whose brilliance is greater than that of diamond, was originally discovered in Russia but was recently discovered in Namibia but the Namibian garnets lack the distinctive “horsetail” inclusion that the Russian gems are characterized by.
Garnet Gemstone Evaluation and ValuationThe purity of color, clarity and size are the most important evaluation factors in loose garnet gemstones. Demantoid is one of the most valuable of all gemstones and large gems of exceptional quality are exceedingly rare. Tsavorite is very rare in fine color, clarity and size. The price for fine gem garnets increases with size as large inclusion free crystals are rare. Unusual colored garnets can be quite valuable in larger sizes as they usually fall into a “no mans land” of garnet chemical makeup.
Resources - References and Information About Garnet Gemstones:
Learn More About Genuine Garnet Gems
Cool Picture of Garnets in the Raw
Shop Gorgeous Garnet Rings
Shop Wonderful Garnet Pendants
Shop Lovely Garnet Earrings