As a January birthstone, garnet provides a versatile family of affordable gems that can be enjoyed year-round.
Garnet jewelry can be found in virtually all colors including red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, black, pink and colorless. They’re beautiful, durable, and most garnets are very affordable.
The name “garnet” comes from the Roman word granatus meaning “seed,” as the gems were thought to resemble pomegranate seeds. The most common garnets are the red to red-brown varieties that people know best. Red garnets can show almost as much fire as rubies.
If you prefer spring or summer greens, Tsavorite garnet from Africa comes in clear light greens to rich dark greens and is more affordable than fine emeralds.
Yellow or orange Spessartine garnets are named after Spessart, Germany, where they were first found.
A translucent green garnet, misnamed “Transvaal Jade,” looks like light to medium milky green jade with tiny black spots. Called hydrogrossular garnet, it has often been used as an affordable jade substitute.
The pink to reddish purple colors are in Rhodolite garnet, the largest transparent species. The lighter, sparkling bright pinks can resemble pink sapphires.
Star garnets are found in Idaho; a rare form of iridescent garnets is found in Mexico and New Mexico; and garnets that change color in different light are found in Madagascar.
Most garnet gemstones have a hardness of 7-7.5 (out of 10) on the Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness. Though garnets are tough, like all gemstones, special care must be taken, as some varieties can chip.
Garnets are rarely treated because of their natural clarity and color.
Store garnet jewelry in a padded container and avoid contact with other gemstones because their facet junctions can be worn away from contact with harder materials. For garnets that are worn often, like rings, look for settings that protect the gem with metal. Garnet jewelry is best cleaned with warm, sudsy water and a tightly woven microfiber cloth. Avoid steam cleaning.
(Jewelry Information Center)