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Birthstone of the Month for January: Garnet

Birthstone Jewellery

The January birthstone is the truly stunning garnet, a precious stone usually forming in an alluring deep red colour. However, in recent times, buyers have been able to choose from a rich palette of colours as further deposits have been discovered. The garnet family is one of the most complex in the gem world and consists of several species and varieties.

History of the Garnet

Thousands of years ago, garnet jewellery was often worn by the Egyptian pharaohs, and the gemstones were often entombed with their mummified corpses as prized possessions to be taken with them into the afterlife.

The oldest recorded piece of garnet jewellery was found in a grave in Egypt and is more than 5,000 years old. It is thought that this red garnet bead necklace was made around 3800 BC.

The name garnet comes from the Latin word ‘garanatus’, which translates to ‘seedlike’, in reference to smaller garnets resembling the seeds of a pomegranate.

The red garnet’s availability increased hugely after the discovery of the famous Bohemian garnet deposits in central Europe around the year 1500. This particular source of garnet became the hub of mining for the gemstone and reached its peak in the 1880s.

The garnet enjoyed a period of popularity in Europe throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and was frequently used in jewellery in the Victorian era.

Image: Andrew Geoghegan “Cannelé Cabochon” Mandarin Garnet Ring

Properties of the Garnet

Colour – The most common hue of garnet comes in an affordable dark red variety, but this precious stone has become available in a whole host of other colours recently. Buyers can expect to find garnet gems in a whole host of colours, including oranges, deeply saturated purplish reds, blues, and even greens. Whilst this stone is best known for its deep red variety, rarer variants of the garnet can be found, including a vibrant green jewel called a demantoid – this particular jewel is one of the most sought-after gems in the world.

Composition – The garnet is an extremely diverse gem and is actually a name for the silicate minerals of almandine, grossular, andradite, pyrope, mozambique, uvarovite and spessartine.

Clarity – The clarity of a garnet will often depend on the type of gem you have. Commonly, red garnets don’t have any inclusions that are visible to the naked eye.

Cut – The vast majority of garnets are cut into standard shapes and calibrated sizes to allow setting into manufactured jewellery.

Carat – Garnets are found in all shapes, sizes and weights. It’s rare for some varieties of the gemstone to come in larger sizes.

Hardness – With garnet gems ranging between 7 and 7.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, this stone is relatively durable and is more than capable of standing the test of time. All the minerals which make up the garnet share a very similar cubic crystal structure and chemical composition which enhances their durability.

The garnet is also one of the few untreated gems that you can find on the market today and has become extremely popular due to its versatility, affordability and the wide variety of colours it is available to be purchased in.

Famous Garnet Around the World

Unlike other birthstones, the garnet only has one truly famous piece to its name, The Antique Pyrope Hair Comb – made in the Victorian era, this antique boasts rose-cut Pyrope garnets. The gems in this masterpiece are originally from the mines in Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic. The Pyrope Hair Comb was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1937 by Alex and Maria Herdlicka.

The Pyrope is sought after due to its fantastic dark, pomegranate colour – in fact, the name Pyrope is derived from the Greek word ‘Pyropos’ which means ‘fire-eyed’ or ‘fire-like’.

The rare demantoid garnets, which were first discovered in 1886, quickly became a favourite of Russian royalty and of designer Carl Fabergé, who often incorporated them into his jewelled eggs. One of the most valuable Imperial Eggs Fabergé made is the Winter Egg, a beautiful work of art created in 1913.

Carved out of transparent white quartz and embodying a winter wonderland, the egg also contains a platinum basket of flowers that include gemstones such as diamonds, jade and demantoid garnet. In 2002, the Winter Egg was sold to the Emir of Qatar for over $9 million.

Garnet at Banks Lyon

Here at Banks Lyon, we have a stunning collection of mandarin garnet rings available to purchase from Andrew Geoghegan. These particular rings are the perfect accessory for the most stylish individual and are available on 0% finance from as little as £38.67 over 48 months.

Along with being the birthstone for January, the garnet is also the stone that celebrates the 2nd wedding anniversary.

Image: Andrew Geoghegan “Cannelé Cabochon” Mandarin Garnet Ring

Please feel free to visit us at either our Lancaster or Kendal store to view our stunning collection of garnet jewellery, as well as other beautiful gemstones we offer. We stock a wide range of birthstone jewellery, and our team of experienced personal shoppers are ready to help you choose a piece that you will cherish for a lifetime.