Garnet: The January BirthstoneThe birthstone of January is the marvelous garnet. The name “garnet” ultimately comes from the Latin word for pomegranate, and it’s not hard to see why ancient people made that comparison: The most popular shade of garnet is a burgundy-red color that’s simultaneously deep and richly saturated. Ironically, while we get the name for garnet from the Romans, the jewel was most popular among the Germanic people who were the ancestors of Germans, Scandinavians, and the English. In fact, one of the most celebrated treasure finds in English history boasted dozens of gold and silver pieces decorated with inlaid garnets.
The garnet’s sensuous red has made it a favorite among ancient civilizations as a symbol of passion, strength, healing, and warmth, and it was chosen frequently for these magical purposes. From the Egyptians to the Greeks to the ancient Hebrews, garnets could frequently be found decorating those looking to summon the stone’s power.
The Physical Characteristics of GarnetBeyond history, garnet is known to scientists as a “neosilicate” stone. This means that the primary structure of the gem is built around a framework of silicon tetroxide. Because this molecular framework is open to different atoms, this means that garnets have a wide variety of different colors for January-born people to appreciate!
Because of the sheer diversity of gemstone-quality garnets, it’s easier to divide them based on color than by species. The famous red that garnet is known for is usually found among almandines and pyropes, but pyrope–spessartine hybrids are cornflower blue with flashes of bright purple. Shades of orange-red come from hessonite, and andradite can be found in an unusual honey yellow color. Rhodolite is a lovely purplish-pink, and grossular can be found in any color, including clear—but green grossular is generally referred to as tsavorite. On that note, some of the most treasured garnets are found in shades of electric green, and the world’s most exceptional garnet species is the brilliant emerald-colored demantoid.
Did you know that garnets also respond to magnets? Garnets contain an unusual amount of paramagnetic iron and manganese, and magnetism is one of the ways that the jewel can be distinguished from others. However, because the amount of these metals varies by garnet species, the intensity of the magnetism differs: Spessartine garnets show the most response, while tsavorites show the least.
The minerals that blend with the silicon tetroxide change the hardness of these jewels dramatically, and garnets can be found anywhere between 6.5 and 7.5 on the Mohs scale. This means that, on average, a garnet is harder than opals and tanzanites, but not quite as hard as a topaz. If your January loved one works with their hands or is scared of breaking a garnet ring, the jewel may be ideal in the form of a necklace or earrings! Alternatively, if you’d like using garnet in bridal jewelry, many of the top designers in the industry utilize tsavorite as an accent.