The definitive guide to January birthstone: the amazing Garnet
Birthstones have been used for a long time to connect people to their birth months and can be a beautiful way to provide a thoughtful and personalized gift for the one that you love.
Each month of the year has a specific jewel or gemstone to set it apart from the others, and birthstone jewelry can be a token of love and affection on a deeply personal level. The January birthstone, the garnet, has been one of the most valued gems on the planet for thousands of years.
Even today, with its rich, intense, and enduring colors and symbolic importance, the garnet is a beautiful gemstone that hides many more unique qualities behind its pretty exterior. Garnet birthstone symbolizes power and strength of the wearer, and is known for bringing peace, good health and prosperity in the lives of people and homes.
For all of its values as a decorative piece, the garnet is a durable and practical gemstone in addition to being an eye-catching jewel.
If your birthday is in January, or if someone you love celebrates their birthday during that month, read on to learn more about the garnet, January’s birthstone.
History And Legends: From ancient times to modern wedding anniversaries
Because they are a naturally occurring mineral that can be found around the world, garnets have been a mainstay in fashion and decoration for centuries. It was believed that garnet symbolized the blood of Jesus Christs and was used in lighting the ark that was made by Noah.
The word garnet is believed to be a Greek name that belonged to one of their love stories.
It is believed that Hades, who was the underworld god, gave guarantees and pomegranate seeds to the goddess of sunshine, Persephone, before returning to Earth. This meant that the two had an emotional connection even though they were very far from each other.
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Archeologists have discovered garnet amulets too in the Egyptian tombs where Pharaoh was buried. This is because garnet was used by the royal families, as it symbolized life in Egypt and was worn by people who believed that the garnet stone would help them in healing during the Bronze age.
Apart from Pharaoh’s tomb, they were also discovered as remains of jewelry in graves in Czechoslovakia.
In the last days of the Roman Empire, garnets were some of the most popular jewels for the fashionable Roman citizen.
This fascination with the gemstone carried over into the medieval era, and inlaid gold pieces were extremely popular among the “barbarian” tribes that took over the Western half of the former Roman Empire.
Ancient Leaders among the Romans also had used garnets in rings and in occasions when they needed to stamp wax seals on letters and documents. Warriors used the garnet gem as a talisman to prevent them from injuries and death during the wars too.
In ancient times, modern Sri Lanka was one of the primary producers of garnets. Pieces found around Europe—from the English coast to the Black Sea—traces their origins back to those ancient mines, and evidence suggests that a flourishing gemstone trade ran from Sri Lanka and South India throughout Europe and Asia.
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From antiquity, garnets have been associated with fire, life, and passion. While the specific garnet meaning may have shifted slightly over time, jewelers and jewelry-lovers today are still drawn to the brightly burning gemstone for the same properties that made it so popular in ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt.
Garnet properties: hard, broad color variety, huge differences among categories
At the most basic level, the garnet stone is a hard silicate crystal that comes in many colors, although red is by far the most common. In fact, the name “garnet” is derived from “poma granatum”, or pomegranate, as the seeds of that fruit bear more than a passing resemblance to the deep red shade commonly found in garnets.
The garnet stone is relatively hard, ranking in at around a 6.5 or 7 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, which runs from 1 to 10. While it isn’t as hard as a diamond, some of the harder strains of garnets are used for similar industrial or abrasive purposes. Also unlike diamonds, garnets feature no cleavage planes, which means that they break into irregular pieces when damaged or cut.
The garnet’s luster can fall on a range as well. Some of the stones have a vitreous or glasslike luster, while other pieces have a resinous or amber-like luster. In either case, the gemstones are highly reflective and actually display a slight magnetic “pick-up” attraction, which makes them unique among similar gemstones!
Based on chemical compositions, there are six species of garnets that are recognized, including Andradite, Grossularite, Spessarite, Pyrope, Uvarovite and Almandine. Apart from these six categories, there are also eleven garnet varieties which have different colors and other unique properties.
Pyrope including Rhodolite: red, rose pink
Pyrope garnets have a unique red color similar ruby and possess a higher refractive index, which is responsible for its brilliance.
Almandine: red-orange, brown-red and pure red
Almandine is the most common variety of garnet. They are usually in different red colors including, red-orange, brown-red and pure red. Although they are not that vivid, they resemble the pyrope garnet.
The star garnet is a rare species that is a combination of almandine and pyrope. It is either deep brownish-red, opaque and or reddish-black.
Grossular: lemon yellow, mint green to green-yellow
Grossular, variants including tsavorite and hessonite, is also a popular variety and its colors range from lemon yellow, mint green to green-yellow.
Uvarovite: green, most valuable, very rare
Spessartine: yellow-orange, orange-red
Andradite: yellow-green, emerald green, black
The clarity of this January birthstone is determined by the category. Therefore, garnets that are red in color like pyrope, almandine and rhodolite have invisible inclusions; while those that are orange like hessonite and spessartine have inclusions that are obvious. Grossular is translucent.
All varieties of garnets are present in different sizes and weights. Most are found in small sizes and a few in large sizes. The chemical composition, hardness of garnet is different in categories too.
Production and locations: India, China, Australia and United States
As mentioned above, garnet was initially discovered in Egyptian tombs. Later on red garnet stones were also discovered as deposits in Central Europe. Today, there exist multiple deposits sites where garnet is mined.
The red garnet is abundant in India and is the most common garnet in the world. The rarest and most expensive garnets are the dazzling uvarovite and demantoid that are found in Tsavo in Africa and in Russia.
In Madagascar, there are also limited quantities of unique alexandrites, a type of garnet gemstones that change color. Such garnet is usually green- yellow during a bright day and turns to pink when the light is intense.
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Unlike gemstones that are mainly mined underground, garnets are found as deposits above the grounds near water sources like lakes or oceans.
Productions of garnets have been mainly dominated by four countries in the world, including India, China, Australia and United States. The leading producer of garnet is India followed by China. Australia is the third and then the fourth is the United States.
Garnets are usually extracted from the earth in clusters, varying in size and uniformity. After they’ve been extracted, garnets must be polished and cut down before they can be used for cosmetic or industrial purposes. A skilled jeweler usually cuts the garnet cluster into either a rounded cabochon shape or the far more traditional faceted gemstone shape.
Yttrium aluminium garnet (YAG) is the most common synthetic garnet used in jewelry production. Because it shares the same chemical and crystalline structure that makes up “real” or naturally-occurring garnets, YAG is not considered an imitation garnet, but rather a synthetic variation of the same gemstone.
Values and prices: green and red are rare and expensive
Color, clarity, shape, and size are the primary properties that determine each garnet’s value. While they come in nearly every color except for blue, green is the rarest garnet color and, as a result, the most expensive. After the green stones, called tsavorite and demantoid, pure red garnets are the most highly prized.
In most cases, the most valuable and most expensive garnet is Spessartite; while Almandine, Rhodolite and Pyrope are the cheapest.
Star garnets, found only in India and the United States, are another exceedingly rare strain of garnets that reflect light in a star-shaped pattern. These garnets are often relatively expensive due to their rarity.
Because garnets do not naturally have any cleavage planes, the facets that the jeweler cuts into a garnet are usually meant to show off the clarity and reflection of each stone, rather than highlight the natural lines of the gem. However, because the crystals are so irregular, the value of each garnet can vary widely based on the quality of the piece and the gemstone itself.
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A loose, unpolished garnet can cost as little as 60 cents. Once the stone has been treated so that the garnet’s properties are displayed, the price increases dramatically. The cheapest Rhodolite garnet starts at around $40 per carat, while the classic Malaia garnet is usually around 500 dollars per carat, with more unique stones like star garnets costing up to $1,500 per carat.
Garnet meanings: protection, healing, love and prosperity
The garnet is primarily known as the January birthstone, but its symbolism and significance goes back much farther than that. In ancient times, a garnet’s meaning was closely linked to light, fire, and heat. According to Jewish tradition, Noah used a lamp made of garnet to cast light inside the ark during the dark days of the flood.
In Christian tradition, King Solomon wore garnets into battle for the healing and protection long believed to be among the garnet’s properties. For similar reasons, both Christian and Muslim soldiers during the Crusades wore garnets as protective talismans during the vicious fighting.
As a general rule, the light and fire reflected in a garnet’s glittering surface have long been associated with the stone, along with the life and health that heat creates.
Today, Western society assigns birthstones by month, and the January birthstone still carries the warmth and well wishes of health, safety, and protection that garnets have carried throughout history. A garnet birthstone is a way of wishing a long, safe, and healthy life for the new child.
Garnet also symbolizes love. Since garnet was a gift to the goddess of sunshine by the god of the underworld, people believe that it is a sign of the emotional connection. Therefore garnets become a symbol of love and is usually given to loved ones during dates or in wedding anniversaries.
Famous Pieces of garnet jewelry
Because of the ancient history of garnet, it should come as no surprise that the most famous garnet piece has nothing to do with the gem’s status as January’s birthstone. The Smithsonian Museum’s Pyrope Comb is a gold and garnet hairpiece from the Victorian era that looks more like a crown than a decorative comb.
The garnet at the center of the Pyrope Comb is a large, rose-cut stone that shows the characteristic “pomegranate-colored” dark red this gemstone to perfection. The smaller garnets around the comb are of a similar quality, although not quite as large, and the overall result is a striking, dramatic piece that catches the eye with its dark, magnetic fire.
The Victorian elites often wore garnets for their reported healing qualities as well as for decoration. By the 1800’s, the practice of assigning birthstones by month had become increasingly common, and the original owner of the Pyrope Comb was most likely looking for a way to show her garnet birthstone in addition to wearing the gems for protection.
The garnets themselves are mined from Bohemia—the modern-day Czech Republic.
Caring and maintaining garnets
As with any gemstone, garnets do need a little bit of care in order to keep from losing the characteristic gleam. If you don’t want to take your garnet piece to be professionally cleaned, it’s easy enough to take care of at home.
Using a little bit of warm water and a soft brush or cloth, polish the stone to remove any mild impurities. If you have a trusted brand of detergent or cleaner that you like to use, you should be safe using that on your garnet.
However, try to stay away from harsh or industrial cleaners, as they may strip away some of the garnet’s crystal layers, leaving you with a pitted, chipped, or otherwise damaged gemstone.
Garnets are also relatively heat-sensitive, so make sure that the water you use is not hot enough to damage the stone, only to clean it.
Conclusion on January birthstone
Overall, garnets have been one of the cornerstones of the jewelry industry for thousands of years. Thanks to their timeless beauty and dazzling quality, they are sure to remain popular for years to come. If your birthday falls in the month of January, or if someone you love celebrates their birthday in the first month of the year, a garnet is a sign of love and affection that will stand the test of time.
Thank you for reading this article on January birthstone, I hope it helps you get the information needed. Feel to share your thoughts below or check other articles on birthstones by month that we have published.
- January birthstone: Garnet– Protection, Healing, Love and Prosperity
- February birthstone: Amethyst– Honest, Peaceful
- March birthstone: Aquamarine and Blood stone– Calm, Brave, Smart
- April birthstone: Diamonds- Pure and Flawless
- May birthstone: Emerald– Lucky and Happy
- June birthstone: Pearl, Moonstone, Alexandrite– Healthy, Longevity, Richness
- July birthstone: Ruby– Passion, Love, Dignity
- August birthstone: Peridot, Spinel and Sardonyx– Pure, Holy, Protective
- September birthstone: Sapphire– Loving, Honest, Virtuous
- October birthstone: Opal, Tourmaline– Joy, Ease, Blessings
- November birthstone: Citrine, Topaz– Friendship, Hope
- December birthstone: Turquoise, Tanzanite, Zircon– Victory, Luck, Success
Image sources: Bvlgari, Smithsonian.