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This fascinating stone comes in an abundant range of colours, lustre and size. Each of its five types and countless varieties is in itself exquisite and displays unique aesthetic features and esoteric virtues. Furthermore, records show that perfectly formed Garnet crystals have been much sought after for over 5,000 years, having been utilised to craft exquisite jewellery and ornaments since ancient times.
What is Garnet?
Garnet is a gorgeous and very diverse gem which can be found in an astoundingly broad spectrum of colours, lustre, density and size. Garnets are, in fact, a varied group of silicate minerals, with similar physical properties and cubic crystal structure but with different chemical compositions, density and refractive index.
This is a stone which can be found in abundance in several parts of the world. However, some varieties are extremely rare. For instance, green Uvarovite Garnet, found in the Ural Mountains, is almost priceless as it only forms in large crystals.
Characteristics of Garnet
Garnets come in different colours including gorgeous shades of red, purple, orange, green, yellow, brown, black, blue and pink. The red tints tend to be the most common.
This wonderful stone’s lustre ranges from vitreous to resinous, while its transparency varies from opaque to transparent. High quality transparent specimens tend to be used to create beautiful gemstones, while opaque varieties are typically used as abrasives, for industrial purposes.
Because of the difference in chemical composition of one Garnet variety to another, their relative hardness also varies. On the Mohs scale this can range from 6.5 to 7.5, which means that Garnet is generally a durable stone. Evidence of such durability can be best exemplified by the remains of a necklace made of Garnets dating back to 3000 B.C., found intact on a young man’s grave of the time.
Garnets usually crystallize in a cubic system. This means their structure has three axes, all of equal length and perpendicular to each other. These gems do not show cleavage, so when they fracture under a certain amount of stress, they shatter in sharp, irregular fragments.
A means to identify Garnets and separate them from all other natural transparent gemstones is their responsiveness to a powerful neodymium magnet. Such magnetic susceptibility measurements, together with a gem’s refractive index are also utilised to distinguish Garnet species and varieties.
This gorgeous stone formed in conditions of extremely high pressure and temperature, and in fact geologists can use Garnets as an indication of the pressures and temperatures at which the rock, in which the gems were found, formed.
Varieties of Garnet
As briefly mentioned above, all Garnets bear similar physical properties but differ in chemical composition. They can be grouped into six main mineral types: Almandine, Andradite, Grossular, Pyrope, Spessartite and Uvarovite.
Almandine is the most widely available and most commonly used type of Garnet. However, it is usually opaque and therefore not fit for gemstone use, as only the less common transparent dark red specimens are used as gems. Typically, its colour spans a range of reds, from dark brownish to purplish red. Such tints and its gorgeous brilliance, resulting from a high refractive index, make Almandine Garnet a popular choice for jewellers.
Andradite is fairly abundant and is considered the most lustrous of Garnet types. It includes several rare and colourful varieties such as green Demantoid, black Melanite and yellow Topazolite.
Grossular is the most varicoloured type of Garnet, it occurs in nearly all colours except for blue. It is most frequently a dark stone, but may present itself in the lightest of colours, at times even white or colourless. Despite being slightly softer than other Garnet types, Grossular Garnets have good colour and transparency, which makes them excellent gemstones. Hugely sought after by collectors, good quality transparent specimens will demand a high price, and crystals large enough to be facetted are quite rare. Among the most prized varieties of this type of Garnet are emerald-green Tsavorite and orange-brown Hessonite. A massive, vein-like material called Hydrogrossular, which is usually carved into exquisite ornaments, is also a variety of this type of Garnet.
Pyrope is perhaps the most popular and commonly used type of Garnet. It is the only type which always displays a red tint, spanning from a light rose colour to very dark purple or brown red. This distinctive feature is also mentioned in its name, which derives from the ancient Greek for ‘fire’ and ‘eye’. Furthermore, this is a much sought after gem for its transparency and frequent lack of inclusions or flaws. A much appreciated variety of Pyrope is Rhodolite, a rose-red to violet variety.
Spessartite is a manganese aluminium silicate by composition and is among one of the very few gems to be ideochromatic, meaning that their colours are due to a fundamental element in their composition rather than impurities. In this case it is manganese which conveys Spessarite its distinctive orange to orange red (the redder tints are due to traces of iron). Its striking colour and remarkable brilliance make this an exceptional gem, highly regarded by Garnet connoisseurs. Furthermore, this is a type of Garnet which has recently increased in popularity as new deposits of high quality gems were discovered on the African continent in the 1990s. Thanks to the discoveries in Namibia, Nigeria and Mozambique, Spessartite is now reasonably plentiful. Mining experts however warn that this is likely to be only temporary.
Last, but definitely not least, is Uvarovite. This type is characterised by a mesmerising deep green colour and is the only true chromium Garnet. First discovered in 1832, this is the rarest of Garnet types, seldom found in crystals large enough to be faceted. When large enough gems are found they are generally opaque and not used to produce gemstones. This type of Garnet would in fact not offer gem quality stones if it weren’t for the deposits found in Russia’s Ural Mountains which yield gorgeous Uvarovite Drusy. Its typical habit is as lustrous, minute, deep green crystals densely coating a matrix. However, striking plates of Uvarovite crystals are sometimes polished in cabochons to be used as beautiful pendants.
The above mentioned Garnet types can be further distinguished into a remarkable range of varieties, below are listed but a few:
Colour-change Garnet is a fascinating variety which exhibits different colours depending on whether it is observed under natural or incandescent (artificial) light. It can present several colour combinations, ranging from light brown, yellow or green in daylight to a purple, light red or pink colour in incandescent lighting. Colour-change Garnet is an intermediary between Purope and Spessartite, though closer in composition to Pyrope Garnet.
Demantoid is a flawless, clear Garnet, of the Andradite type. It can be emerald-green to olive green and is slightly softer than other varieties of this stone. As large, clear Garnet gems are usually hard to find and larger gems are often flawed or of poor colour, this variety is highly sought after and valuable. A five carat Demantoid is in fact rarer than an Emerald of the same size and may even present a fire, or sparkle, superior to that of a Diamond.
Goosberry Garnet is a light green to light brown variety of Grossular Garnet.
Hessonite is a gorgeous transparent variety of Grossular Garnet, which ranges from orange to orange-brown.
Imperial Garnets, a variety of the Grossular type, are a much admired transparent pink gem.
Malaya Garnet is an intermediary variety between the Spessartite and Pyrope types. It is a reddish-orange colour and originates specifically from the Uba River Valley in Kenya and Tanzania.
Mali Garnet ranges from yellow to green to brown, though it is most commonly a greenish-yellow colour. It is an intermediary variety between Grossular and Andradite, though is closer in chemical structure to the Grossular type. As the name suggests, it is found exclusively in Mali, where it was first discovered in 1994.
Mandarin Garnet, from Namibia and Mozambique, belongs to the Spessartite type and ranges from bright orange to orange- red.
Melanite is a lustrous variety of Andradite Garnet. Its colour will range from opaque black to a very dark red.
Rhodolite is a rose-red to violet variety and is an intermediary between Almandine and Pyrope.
Star Garnet, a variety of Almandine Garnet, is a gorgeous gem which exhibits asterism in the form of a four rayed star. Star Garnets are rather rare in nature and will generally occur as opaque stones with a weak asterism. This variety is thus not commonly available on the gemstone market.
Tangerine Garnet ranges from orange-yellow to light orange. It usually originates from Namibia and Mozambique and is a Spessartite Garnet.
Topazolite is a variety of Adradite Garnet and is typically yellow to brownish-yellow.
Tsavorite is a magnificent light- green to emerald-green variety of Grossular Garnet which contains traces of vanadium or chromium, responsible for the green tint. Tsavorite gems are usually found in Tanzania and Madagascar, though small deposits have also been found in Pakistan and in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica.
Where can Garnet be found?
Garnet is a plentiful gem, found in metamorphic and igneous rocks in a select number of localities across the world. As well as in rock formations, it also features in small sand particles on many beaches.
Almandine Garnets are a common gemstone, found in several locations worldwide. However, high quality specimens are not as common and are only found in a handful of locations mentioned below. In Europe, deposits are found in Austria’s North Tyrol (source of some of the best crystallized Almandine, embedded in a mica schist matrix), Moravia in the Czech Republic and around Bolzano in Italy. In South America, the state of Paraìba in Brazil is a source of gorgeous gems. While in Asia, noteworthy sources are the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in China, Sri Lanka (this variety is sometimes referred to as the Ceylon Ruby) and India.
In North America, the United States has several excellent mines of Almandine Garnet, such as those in Idaho (where Star Garnets can be found), on Alaska’s Wrangell Island, in New York’s Barton Garnet Mine (possibly the world’s largest garnet mine), in New York City (where one of the largest complete Almandine crystals, the ‘Subway Garnet’, was found), Colorado, Nevada Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine. Other great sources of exquisite Almandine are Madagascar and New South Wales in Australia. The original historical deposits of Andradite Garnet were in Russia, however, new and more extensive deposits of this beautiful stone are now found in Namibia. Smaller scale sources are found in Afghanistan, Italy, Iran, Kazakhstan, Madagascar and Ukraine. Furthermore, deposits of specific varieties of Andradite, such as Topazolite and Melanite, are found in Azerbaijan, Italy, Mali, Mexico and the USA.
Grossular Garnets are found in several localities across the world. Italy, in particular, is popular for its high quality Grossular Garnet, in particular of the Hessonite variety. Noteworthy deposits are found in the north-western regions, more specifically in Val D’Ala, Candove, Val Di Susa, Bellecombe, Carboneri and Urbe. Other European localities are found in Switzerland and the Banat Mountains in Romania. Exceptionally large beige or raspberry-red Grossular crystals have been found in Sierra de la Cruz, Mexico.
Some of the finest Grossular crystals are found in the USA, here noteworthy sites are on the Belvidere Mountains in Vermont, in Maine (which produces gorgeous orange-brown gems), in Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, California and Utah. Gorgeous deep green Tsavorite gems are found in the Tsavo National Park in Kenya (hence their name), the Merelani Hills in Tanzania and in Mali. Québec, in Canada, is an outstanding locality for lustrous transparent Hessonite crystals, where brown as well as chromium-rich green gems can be found.
Pyrope is not a common mineral and there are few localities in which this beautiful Garnet type can be found. In Europe, Pyrope Garnet can be found in the Czech Republic (in Bohemia), in Switzerland (in Ticino) and in Scotland (in Fife, this particular variety is often referred to as the ‘Elie Ruby’, as found in Elie Ness). Other noteworthy deposits are found in Africa, more specifically in the Tanga Region of Tanzania, the Turkana District in Kenya and the Kimberley Mine in South Africa. In the USA, significant deposits are found in the San Carlo Indian Reservation in Arizona and in North Carolina (where the Rhodolite variety can be found), while in Canada, good quality specimens of Pyrope are found in Joli Township, Quebec.
Spessartite Garnets are found in several locations across the globe. A new outstanding occurrence of bright orange crystals, first brought to the market in 2008, has been unearthed near the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Other important African localities are the Jos Plateu in Nigeria, the Kunene Region in Namibia and the Umba River Valley in Tanzania (where the Malaya variety can be found). In Asia, outstanding Spessartite gems have been found in China (first discovered in the late 1990s) and in the Nangarhar Province in Afghanistan, while the finest dark red specimens with contrasting white Albite usually come from the Skardu District and the Gilgit District in Pakistan.
In Europe, Spessartite occurrences have been found in Norway and in Val Codera and the Elba Island in Italy. Of particular note are also the lustrous crystals with deep etchings found in the Minas Gerais and the Navegadora Mine of Brazil. Australia (Broken Hill in New South Wales) and the USA (particularly the states of California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah) also produce high quality specimens.
Uvarovite is the rarest of Garnet types, and its occurrences are extremely limited. Gorgeous large crystals are found in Otukumpu in Finland, where they are often found as individual crystals embedded in a matrix. While small emerald-green crystal groupings are typically found in Russia, more specifically in the Saranovskii Mine on the Urals, the most prolific Uvarovite locality in the world. Other significant localities are the Lombardy Region in Italy, the Kop Krom mine in Turkey and in the state of California in the USA.
The origin of its name
The word ‘Garnet’ derives from the Latin ‘granatus’ or ‘garanatus’, meaning ‘seedlike’, thought to reference ‘mela granatum’ or ‘pomum granatum’ (meaning pomegranate). This is possibly because Pomegranate contains a multitude of seeds covered in vibrant red arils, similar in size, shape and colour to red Garnet crystals. The word later evolved to ‘gernet’ (meaning ‘dark red’) in 14th Century Middle English, and is now ‘Garnet’, used to indicate this fabulous and varied gem.
In History and Across the World
Throughout history, Garnets have been incredibly popular gems. Not only have they been used over the years to adorn magnificent jewellery and precious ornamental pieces, but they have also been an important part of ancient legends and traditions.
It is said that the Greek philosopher Plato, who lived between 428 and 348 B.C., had his portrait engraved on a Garnet by a Roman engraver.
Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) was once a great source of Garnet. The cutting, polishing and mounting of these beautiful stones was one of the main industries in the country at the time, and remains a prosperous activity in the Czech Republic nowadays. Their jewellery was set with Garnets cut and mounted in many forms and the interiors of a great number of Bohemian churches and castles were splendidly adorned with Garnets. Today’s jewellery industry in the Czech Republic continues to arrange and mount gorgeous Garnets in the traditional tightly joined way, said to resemble the cross section of a Pomegranate.
Furthermore, there have been numerous ancient legends and traditions surrounding Garnets. In Medieval times, for instance, these gems were thought to be a cure for depression, to offer protection against bad dreams and were even believed to be a remedy for disease of the liver and haemorrhages.
This luminous stone is also mentioned in the writings of several religions. For instance, it is said that, during the dark days and nights of the great flood, Noah used a finely cut, glowing Garnet to brighten the ark. Garnets, in particular blood-red gems, are also mentioned in Christian tradition as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, while Hebrew writers include Garnet as one of the twelve gems in Aaron’s breastplate and the Koran holds that Garnets illuminate the Fourth Heaven for Muslims.
Properties of Garnet
Throughout history it was often believed that wearing a Garnet would promote good health. In medieval times for instance, when colour played an important role in utilising particular stones to heal diseases, red Garnets were thought to be excellent remedies for haemorrhages and inflammatory diseases. These stones were also worn with the purpose of enhancing the body’s endurance, vigour and strength, and it was in fact believed that wearing a Garnet when exerting oneself could be extremely beneficial.
Garnets are nowadays still believed to be excellent healing stones. They are thought to provide support if one suffers from heart palpitations, blood diseases or lung infections. Furthermore, this gorgeous stone is believed to tone the spleen, support a healthy circulatory system and enhance the production of haemoglobin, thus reenergising our blood, stimulating our metabolism and relieving skin conditions.
It is thought to be a great stone for either gender. If carried against the body it will in fact keep men’s reproductive system healthy and, in women, will promote hormonal balance and reduce any related swelling. For both genders, Garnets support sexual potency and fertility.
Garnets also have many virtues when it comes to love and sex. It is said that these stones are able to free one’s sensual side, releasing the desire to love and be passionate. A Garnet is a great stone for couples who would like to explore their reciprocal attraction, sexual magic and passion. From a relationship perspective, these are stones which are able to inspire commitment to one another, fidelity and devotion. They are also said to be gems able to help find true love.
These gems are able to exert their healing powers over our mental health too. Garnets have in fact numerous virtues which influence our perception of fidelity, true friendship, passion, loyalty, devotion and faith. This stone also sharpens our perception of ourselves and other people, increasing our self esteem and energy.
In the past, Garnets were thought to help ward off evil spirits, especially those of the night (often referred to as demons or night phantoms). Nowadays, it is used as a gem to ward off nightmares and promote serene sleep.
An ancient symbol of friendship, Garnets were exchanged between parting friends as a token of their affection and to ensure they would meet again. This stone is still reputed to attract people to the wearer. Such property can be yielded both for personal and business success alike. This gem is in fact especially suited to those whose business is people-oriented.
One of the most appreciated virtues of Garnet is the support it provides in overcoming depression. This beautiful stone has the ability to help dissolve negative behaviour patterns and let go of unhelpful, sabotaging thoughts. Furthermore, Garnet purifies, balances and revitalizes our inner energy, promoting self confidence and allowing one’s inner spirit to shine. Garnets are amazing at enhancing our survival instincts in times of crisis or in traumatic situations, helping our courage surface and bestowing us hope. As well as helping fight depression it is also a stone which will support those making big changes to their lives or entering new realms.
These magnificent gems are able to free us from taboos and inhibitions while distancing us from anger and discord. They thus alleviate emotional disharmony and protect their wearer from the unwanted negative energies of others.
Garnet is the birthstone for January and is the zodiac stone for those born under the sign of Aquarius.
The energy contained in Garnets cleanses and revitalises all seven chakras, thus balancing and purifying our own energy. These are stones which inspire love and devotion, alleviating emotional disharmony and balancing our sex drive. Red varieties in particular vitalizes kundalini energy by distributing the right amount of energy to every part of the body.
As this is a gem which comes in a wide range of types and varieties, in addition to the properties mentioned above, each type has additional virtues as briefly outlined below.
Almandine Garnet blends the fiery energy of its scarlet colours with the more muted earthy overtones of brown. This is a Garnet type which is intimately linked to Earth and which is often used as a talisman for protection and to increase one’s will power to resist negativity. It is associated with the Root Chakra (Muladhara). It aids circulation and can help clear blood related issues, furthermore this is the stone of physical love and relationships.
Andradite Garnet is a solidly grounded stone, which comes in the Earth’s elemental colours or green, olive, dark yellow or black. This is a stone associated to several chakras: the Root Chakra (Muladhara), the Heart Chakra (Anahata) and the Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura). This type of Garnet is able to dissolve feelings of alienation or isolation, attracting intimate encounters with others. It is also a stone which bestows safety and strength upon its wearer, and will enhance self empowerment and higher thinking.
Grossular Garnet, which spans the sunrise colours of red, scarlet, orange, gold and yellow, is the stone of hope and empowerment. It is also the stone of abundance, prosperity and all things nurturing from Mother Earth. This Garnet type is a deeply spiritual stone and is associated with the Heart (Anahata), Solar Plexus (Manipura), Sacral (Svadhisthana) and Root (Muladhara) Chakras.
Pyrope Garnet is often described as ‘living fire’ with crystals ranging from rose red to deep crimson, to violet to indigo. It is associated to the Root (Muladhara) and the Crown (Sahasrana) Chakras. Pyrope Garnet is a stone of vitality, charisma and inspiration which offers invaluable support to those with gifts and abilities, enabling them to share these with others.
Spessartite Garnet, also known as ‘Garnet of the Sun’ because of its scarlet, dark gold and orange and deep red crystals, is one of the rarest types. It helps activate the mind’s analytical abilities and is known to provide the confidence to make changes to one’s life, while alleviating fears and awakening creative energies. This type of Garnet is associated to the Solar Plexus (Manipura) and Sacral (Svadhisthana) Chakras.
Uvarovite Garnet, with its vibrant emerald green crystals, is primarily associated to the Heart Chakra (Anahata). It is powerful in enhancing spiritual relationships and promotes prosperity and wealth, also assisting us in accepting all that is offered by the Universe.