What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word garnet? For most people, they think of an old-fashioned red gemstone that imitates a ruby.
A garnet comes in a variety of colors, is a gemstone in its own right and can be very trendy and cool!
A well-chosen garnet can dress up any outfit, be it for a casual or formal occasion. It makes for a fantastic addition to your jewelry collection and gives that perfect pop of color when needed.
With so much going for it, the garnet is a gemstone to fall in love with! In this article, we’re going to walk you through the tips on scoring a great garnet find!
What is a garnet?
Understanding what a garnet is gets technical and complicated. For your reference, we have included a detailed section of garnet varieties at the end of this article.
Garnets are a species of gemstone. They are not composed of a single mineral but is a group of closely related minerals that come in a variety of colors and chemical compositions. The name ‘garnet’ comes from an old Latin word, granatum, which means dark red. Another connotation to the color red is that its granular form resembles the seeds of pomegranates.
For all January babies, garnets have a special connotation because it is known as the January birthstone. It is believed to be one of the oldest gemstones and has been used for thousands of years.
As with any other gemstone, we use the famous 4Cs to evaluate the quality of garnets. The 4Cs stand for cut, color, clarity and carat weight.
Evaluating the color of your garnet
It is important to note that color is a garnet’s most significant quality factor. Garnets come in a plethora of colors like red, burgundy, orange, brown, green, and even black (we will discuss this in detail further down).
They are also available in numerous color-changing varieties which exhibit different colors depending on the type of light they are viewed in. For example, some garnets appear green, beige or gray in daylight but change into red or purplish-pink when viewed under incandescent light.
Garnets that are vivid red in color are more valuable than others, with a few exceptions such as the brilliant green varieties. Look for a vivid spectral red for the best types of garnets.
Evaluating the cut of your garnet
Garnets usually come in standard cuts and shapes to allow them to be easily set into jewelry. This is true of red garnets which are very common.
However, rare and valuable types of garnets such as tsavorites and demantoids are cut into shapes that will retain most of their carat weight.
Evaluating the clarity of a garnet
Garnet clarity depends on its variety. Generally, garnets are clean stones. They are transparent and exhibit a glassy luster. Red garnets like pyrope and almandine usually do not have eye-visible inclusions.
On the other hand, orange garnets such as spessartine and hessonite often have inclusions. However, sometimes these inclusions can create a star effect called asterism which is treasured for its rarity. This is one of those cases where a flaw becomes a coveted feature.
Assessing the carat weight of a garnet
Garnets are available in all shapes and sizes. The rare species like demantoid and tsavorite come in smaller sizes so the value increases dramatically with the increase in carat size.
The common varieties such as almadines, however, come in larger sizes.
What about treated garnets?
Many gemstones on the market are treated in some way to enhance their appearance. Garnets, however, are not artificially treated or enhanced in any way. Yes, you read that right. Irradiation and heat treatment are not effective upon these gemstones. Garnets come in their most natural colors so what you see is what you get with these stones.
You can find synthetic versions of garnets on the market but these are used in different ways. Here are two:
- Ytrrium Aluminium Garnet or YAG is a colorless simulant of diamonds which was popularly used until the 70’s when it lost its stake to Cubic Zirconia.
- Gadolinum Gallium Garnet or GGG – is produced for industrial purposes and rarely used as a gemstone.
Garnet vs. ruby – a source of confusion
The most common variety of garnets come in a deep red color that is very similar to rubies. To the untrained eye, both gemstones look identical and it is very difficult to tell them apart. Because garnets are not as valuable as rubies, some vendors can try to fob off a garnet for the price of a ruby.
Although at a glance rubies and garnets look very similar, there are ways to tell the two apart.
Examine the color
Although garnets are red, they also contain orange, brown, green and other earthy tones. Rubies, on the other hand, are usually vivid red, although sometimes they come with purplish and bluish secondary hues. If you put them side by side, garnets will literally pale in comparison to rubies.
Hold it against a light source
Hold up your stone against a bright light source and examine the spectrum. The spectrum is the rainbow created by moving the stone around.
Garnets will usually reflect bands of yellow and green; rubies will reflect blues and reds because they absorb the greens and yellows in the spectrum.
Observe the refraction
If you examine the stone against a light source, look for double rainbows within the stone. Rubies are doubly refractive, which means a double rainbow image will appear.
Garnets, on the other hand, are singly refractive and the rainbow that will appear is clearer and less blurred than that of rubies.
Check for hardness
A ruby has a high ranking of 9 on the Mohs scale, just below diamonds which rank supreme at 10. A garnet, on the other hand, is quite a soft stone and ranks at 6.5 to 7.5.
If the stone you’re holding scratches easily and by a substance of a hardness ranking below 9, then it is probably a garnet.
Seek professional advice
Rubies are considered one of the most valuable gemstones alongside diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires. They come with a heftier price tag than garnets. It is best to consult a credible jeweler to have your stone expertly valued and examined to ensure that it is indeed what it is claimed to be.
With its striking sophistication and appealing price tags, garnets are an appealing gemstone for any form of jewelry.
Garnets are perfect for minimalist jewelry. For earrings, they can be worn as studs or delicate dangle earrings. A garnet tennis bracelet is a dainty and classy way to add a touch of color without going overboard and the same can be said for garnet pendants.
They also work as statement pieces. A garnet cocktail ring will surely steal the show with its blood red hue. For a striking effect, choose a garnet statement necklace for a bold and confident look.
Garnets pair best with silver colored metals, although gold gives it a classic look. However, as red and pink don’t make the best pairing, garnets are not shown to advantage when paired with rose gold.
While we love garnets here, we cannot really endorse it as a gemstone for an engagement ring. This is because the stone is quite soft and can easily be scratched and damaged.
For an engagement ring, you will need a gemstone that can be worn on a daily basis and can withstand the daily knocks of life that it is bound to come in contact with. If you are after a red stone, a ruby or synthetic red diamond will be among the most durable options. However, these are quite pricey in comparison to a garnet.
Having said that, with consistent care and maintenance, you will be able to keep your garnet shining for a length of time. When required, you can replace the garnet on your ring at a much less significant price than a ruby.
Varieties of garnet
Although they are most commonly known as red or burgundy stones, garnets actually come in a variety of chemical compositions. These can be confusing and complicated but bear with us!
There are six recognized species of garnet: pyrope, almandine, spessartite, grossularite, uvarovite, and andradite. On top of these, however, are eleven more garnet varieties based on color or other special properties!
The garnets that have a distinctive red color and closely resemble rubies are of the pyrope variety. These have a high refractive index which causes their impressive brilliance.
The most popular garnets, however, are the almandine variety. These come in pure red, reddish orange, and brownish red colors. While it looks very similar to pyrope, it is not as vivid. Interestingly, although it is one of the most common garnet varieties and there are huge amounts sourced all over the world, gem-quality stones have been rarely surfacing in the past decade.
Another popular variety is grossularite. This type of garnet ranges in color from lemon yellow to greenish-yellow to mint green. The andradite variety is the most lustrous of all the garnets. It has three further varieties: the rare olive-green to emerald-green Demantoid, the yellow to brownish-yellow Topazolite, and the lustrous opaque black Melanite, often simply known as the Black Garnet.
There is also the Uvarovite which is the only consistently green garnet. It has a deep emerald green color and is very rare making it very valuable.
Garnet meaning, power, and history
Believed to have been used as gemstone for over 5,000 years, garnets are thought to be among the most ancient talismans. It is prized for its protective energies and healing power. Garnets were used as far back as the Bronze Age and in ancient Egypt. They were also popular in ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. During the Middle Ages, this precious gemstone was used as a symbol for truth and faith; during the Crusades it served as a talisman against the enemy.
There are those who believe that garnets have therapeutic powers, and so they use these to fight depression and to dispel nightmares. By wearing garnet jewelry, ailments such as rheumatism, arthritic pain, and even acne are believed to be alleviated and healed.
Now, while we cannot verify whether or not these beliefs are true and that garnets contain these powers, what we can attest to is the beauty of the garnet as a gemstone. That is undeniable!