Garnets have been called a lot of things over the years, but never once have they been called “underappreciated.” Whether it’s the “fire-eyed” pyrope, or the traditional carbuncle, garnets have been known and treasured for thousands of years. Garnets can shine so brightly that they were once believed to glow in the dark. During the Victorian Era in England, dark red garnets that appeared black face down were highly esteemed for the “secretive” property: when held up to the sun, the dark tones disappeared and were replaced by smoldering reds and oranges.
That makes sense to me. The term carbuncle means “live coal.” Garnets live up to the name. The sultry reds of classic garnets were thought to signify the passion and depth of the character of the wearer.
But the advent of modern science has swollen the appreciation for garnets even further. Now that we know what chemically and structurally constitutes a garnet, the color palate of the garnet group has expanded dramatically. Gooseberry green grossularite, verdant green tsavorite and uvarovite, flame orange spessartite, rich and rusty hessonite, and rosy pink rhodolite are all strikingly beautiful in their individual ways.
One branch of the garnet group even has members that literally sparkle more than diamonds. This is the andradite species. Melanite is opaque black, but reflects light from its surface with an adamantine luster. Topazolite is the trade name for yellow andradite, and frankly, every topaz wishes it could sparkle like that. Then there is demantoid, the most valuable of all the garnets. The finest are colored by chromium impurities, which achieve emerald-like greens. Add a brilliance better than that of a diamond and the fact that demantoid is tougher than the average emerald, and you’ve got yourself a quite a statement piece.
Not too long ago, the old trade saying was: “Garnets come in every color except blue.” Early on in the 21st Century, blue garnets were discovered. Not only that, but they were legitimate color-change gems, as well, transforming from dark blue in sunlight to reddish purple in tungsten light. And so there truly is a garnet for every person, especially those born in January.
When shopping for fine garnets, the common orangey reds are usually affordable enough to experiment with. Always look for eye-clean stones with a color that is pleasing to you. If you’re looking for some of the more exotic members of the garnet group like tsavorite or demantoid, don’t be surprised to find some major price differences from the typical pyrope or almandine varieties.
Garnet is the traditional birthstone for the month of January, so all of its glorious colors can be bestowed as gifts. Most garnets are ultrasonic safe, but steam cleaning can be risky, so if you have any hesitations about how to clean your garnet jewelry, please bring it in, and my staff will do a complementary clean and check for you.
I carry a battery of colors in garnets. And if I don’t have it in stock, I can definitely get it for you. All you have to do is ask.