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Garnet Jewelry

What is a garnet?

The name refers to a whole family of silicates. The presence of magnesium, aluminum, iron and chromium are what differentiate one garnet variety from another. While many think of a deep red stone set in beautiful jewelry, the stone is commonly used in industrial products. A majority of the mined stones are used to make abrasives such as sanding products, water filtration and abrasive blasting material for smoothing surfaces.

Few stones are gem quality so they are crushed to make these products. The ones that can be cut and turned into jewelry are typically very clean and flawless. Inclusions are rare and they do not have cleavage making them easier to cut. The absence of cleavage means that if they do break, they break in an asymmetrical and jagged manner.

Where Garnet comes from

There are many varieties found all over the world. A majority of the deposits are located in Africa, South America, Australia and Asia. Brazil, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Tanzania are home to many varieties. Other varieties can be found in Europe and the United States has some garnet deposits in Arizona. The jewelry grade stones mostly come from the African deposits. Many other places in the United States and abroad produce the industrial grade stones.

Garnet offers the colors of the rainbow

Typically, people think of a deep, dark red stone when they think of garnet jewelry . The fact is that this gem comes in every color on the spectrum except for blue. There are about 14 different varieties and each has its own signature shade of red or a different color all together. If you prefer a red stone with hint of violet, this is called almandite and it may have come from India, Madagascar, the U.S. or maybe even Austria. There are also black, clear, yellow, green and brown stones. The most valuable and coveted color is the emerald green of the demantoid and tsavorite varieties. The demantoid, typically found in the Ural Mountains of Asia, is losing its rarity because of new deposit discoveries in Namibia. The tsavorite variety was found in 1967 in Tanzania.

Garnet: A special gem for a special day

As the official birthstone, a garnet ring is a common gift for the January birthday girl. Though the red shades are the traditional birthstone, opting for a different color would make it even more special. Another special occasion worthy of a piece of garnet jewelry is the 2nd wedding anniversary. Of course, the versatility of this stone gives it year round appeal and no special occasion is necessary.

History, lore and legend of the Garnet

This seductive red gemstone has been around for centuries. Its name comes from the Latin word "granum" meaning "grain." Another possible derivation of the name comes from the Latin word "granatium" which refers to the pomegranate. This was because the crystals tended to be round in shape and the ancients thought they looked like pomegranate seeds.

Supposedly, Noah used a lantern made of garnet to light the way as the Ark sailed at night. Along the same vein, ancients believed it protected the wearer from evil because of its powers to dispel the darkness of night. It was widely used as a talisman and was perhaps worn as a garnet pendant to protect travelers.

As for healing properties, they are believed to help with joint ailments, circulation and even depression. Skin inflammations are also supposed to be relieved by wearing a garnet bracelet or some other piece next to the skin. In astrological terms, the garnet is the gemstone for Aquarius and its planets are Mars, Mercury and former planet, Pluto.

Beloved Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis owned a cabochon garnet brooch from the 1800's which was auctioned off from her estate for $145,000 in 1996. Carl Faberg© adored the emerald green demantoid variety and used them in many of his pieces.

Caring for garnet jewelry

Garnet gemstones are quite durable and are used in a myriad of jewelry pieces. Depending on the variety, they rank anywhere from a 6 to a 7.5 on Mohs scale of hardness. Because they lack cleavage, they are easy to cut and can be found in all shapes and sizes. They are even beautiful when polished into a smooth cabochon. Gold or silver settings are a great complement to the wide variety of colors and shades of red. The violet red shades are showcased in a silver or platinum setting whereas the red-brown shades look best in gold.

To clean your garnet pendant and other pieces, soak them in warm soapy water and then gently scrub with a toothbrush to get to the residue under the setting.

There are so many varieties of garnet that all gemstone enthusiasts can a find a color that appeals to them. A violet-tinged red garent bracelet set in silver accessorizes casual or formal blues and purples. There really is a shade or color to complement everything in your wardrobe. Most common garnets are fairly affordable, so mixing and matching several pieces is easy to do.