A gemstone with a rich history, Garnet has been used as a precious stone in many cultures around the world. The Garnet family encompasses a varied range of colored gemstones.
The name Garnet is derived from the Latin ‘granatus’ (grain or seed) due to the round shape of the raw gems and the similarity to red pomegranate seeds. However, it should be emphasized that the colors of this mineral are manifold, and that, observed under a microscope, its crystals are cubic rather than round.
Chemical composition of Garnet
Garnets are silicates with a similar crystalline structure, but diverse chemical composition, conferring different colors and properties on each type.
Various varieties of Garnet are extracted in different countries: India, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.
The history of Garnet
The most well-known variety of Garnet is surely the red or reddish type (Mozambique Garnet, Rhodolite). The protagonist of many ancient tales, it is mentioned in Greek mythology in the story of Persephone’s abduction by Hades, while Hebrew and Muslim traditions have also celebrated its splendor. Red Garnet has not only been cited in ancient legends, but has also been used and cut as a gemstone. The Vikings already used Garnet adorned jewelry as funerary ornaments to illuminate the way towards Valhalla, while crusaders decorated their armor with this gemstone to give them courage in battle. However, Garnet became particularly popular in the 19th and 20th centuries, most of all Bohemian Garnet.
Properties of Garnet
Despite similar crystalline structure, the presence of certain metals (manganese, calcium, etc.) allows a wide range of different colors, ranging from purple to chocolate, green, yellow, pink and red, resulting in a grand total of thirty-eight different types of Garnet.
Varieties of Garnet
Mozambique Garnet draws its name from the East African country where it is found and, thanks to its warm color, bears similarity to Ruby, which could be considered the classic variety of Garnet. Malaya Garnet is extracted from a single mine in Eastern Africa, where it was discovered. This African beauty displays an intense orange, sometimes with bright pink shades. Unfortunately, this variety has long been undervalued, resulting in disinterest from buyers. This disinterest is also reflected by its name: ‘Malaya’ means ‘marginalized’ in Swahili. Only in the 1970s did this feminine beauty first get mounted in a pendant, and since then, Malaya Garnet has gained a place in the American gem market.
Rhodolite displays marvelous reds and is extracted in Tanzania, Sri Lanka and India. Discovered in 1882 by George Frederich Kunz in North Caroline, it was so named for its similarities with the colors of mountain Rhododendrons; a wonderful blend of bright pink, red and purple.
The new Raspberry Rhodolite from Tanzania displays equally beautiful red hues, and has gained the nickname ‘Queen of the Garnets’. This is surely the most valuable variety of Rhodolite currently available in the market.
Red-orange hues are typical for Spessartite, a Garnet variety named for the place it was first extracted - Spessart in Bavaria, Germany. Following its discovery in the 19th century, it was also extracted in Virginia and, successively, in Australia, Brazil, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Zambia and Nigeria.
A wonderful example of Raspberry Rhodolite
Hessonite, an intense golden honey-hued Garnet, displays similar brilliance. Rare in eye-clean quality, its characteristic inclusions lend it a magical caramel or cinnamon color, much loved by the ancient Indians, Greeks and Romans. Hessonite is usually extracted in India, but a number of attractive examples have also been found in Tanzania.
In addition to the popular red and orange hues, green Garnet also exists. The intense green Demantoid was discovered (1849) and named (1855) by Dr Nordenskjöld, who also first discovered Alexandrite.
The original source is located in the Ural mountains, but examples of Ambanja Demantoid for sale by Juwelo are from Madagascar. This variety of Garnet owes its color to chrome and/or iron, and each deposit yields uniquely different green tones.
Another green miracle is Tsavorite, discovered by Campbell R. Bridges and named for the Tsavo National Park in Kenya, although examples have also been extracted in Tanzania. Tsavorite is also called ‘the King of Garnets,' a title that seems appropriate at first glance. Tsavorite is often compared to and confused with Emerald, although it is much rarer than the famed green Beryl.
Garnets that display unique optical effects include Tanzanian and Madagascar Color Change Garnet, and Kamtonga Color Change Garnet from Kenya. Discovered in the 1970s, these examples are extracted from Umba-Tal (Tanzania), Bekyily (Southern Madagascar) and near Kamtonga (Kenya). The typical color change in these Garnets shifts from blue-green to purple-red, and from khaki green to orange red, and is caused by the high concentration of vanadium; occasionally, it is due to chrome, magnesium, manganese and iron compounds. Unfortunately, these Garnets with optical effects are only found in small sizes, which does not ruin their magic.
Care for Garnet
Varieties of Garnet may not be subjected to extreme temperatures, which may damage the gemstone.