Jewelry Guide

Your Complete Guide to Buying a Garnet

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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.

But:

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.

Related Article: Top 17 Garnet Jewelry Items that Make Perfect Gifts (For Her)

How to Evaluate Your Garnet

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.

Garnet Color

Color is garnet’s most important quality factor.

See more garnet jewelry by DelarahUse code “SAVE6DJ” for 25% off.  

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).

Vivid red garnet pendant in yellow gold

Vivid red garnets are the most desirable. See this pendant here.

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.

Garnets 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.

Garnet Cut

 

Princess cut garnet earrings

Garnets can be cut into any standard shape. See these studs here.

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.

Garnet Clarity

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.

Garnet carat weight 

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?

Beautiful garnet pendant by Delarah. See more garnet jewelry here.

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 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.

Are Garnets Valuable?

As we’ve mentioned already, a garnet is a cost-effective alternative to buying rubies. But are they valuable in their own right? Tsavorite and demantoid are the two rarest and most expensive varieties of garnet, with high quality specimens hard to come by. Red garnets are much less expensive, with a high-quality carat costing several hundred dollars.

Garnet vs. Ruby – A Source of Confusion

Garnet vs ruby side by side comparison

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.

Garnet ring on girl's finger

Garnet or ruby – which is it? Check here.

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.

Garnet Jewelry

With its striking sophistication and appealing price tags, garnets are an attractive 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.

minimalist drop garnet earrings

Garnet drop earrings. See them here.

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 yellow gold gives it a classic look. For a vintage style, opt for yellow gold garnet jewelry.

Yellow gold plated garnet earrings

Yellow gold garnet jewelry has a classic touch. See these earrings here.

Red and pink don’t always complement each other, so you might think that red garnets set in rose gold wouldn’t look appealing. But this isn’t the case. Take a look at this rose gold garnet ring with pink tourmalines surrounding it.  It has a vintage charm, bold color and simply looks stunning. Because rose gold tends to suit any skin tone, garnets set in rose gold are ideal for anyone.

Is a Garnet Engagement Ring a Good Idea?

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.

Compare the two rings below. Although they look very similar, there is a significant price difference between the two.

Garnet engagement ring

Garnet engagement ring. See it here.

ruby engagement ring

Ruby engagement ring. See it here.

While garnets aren’t as hard as rubies, with consistent care and maintenance, you will be able to keep your garnet shining for a length of time. Some claim to have garnet rings that are centuries old. If required, you can replace the garnet on your ring at a lower price point than a ruby.

  1. 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 These have a high refractive index which causes their impressive brilliance.
  • The most popular garnets, however, are the almandine 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 andraditevariety 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.
  • Spessartite is a rarer species of garnet occurs in vivid orange or reddish orange hues. This is why it’s also sometimes called mandarin garnet because of its similarity in hue to the fruit. It’s difficult to find high quality spessartite garnets today as sources are depleting.

See Red Garnet varieties in the following video by GIA

  

Garnet Meaning, 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!

*Disclaimer: Jewelry Shopping Guide does not guarantee or validate any of the claims related to the metaphysical and alternative healing powers of this or any other gemstone. This information should in no way be used as a substitute for medical advice.

Where to Buy Garnet Jewelry

Garnet is a popular gemstone, so it’s not difficult to find your ideal piece at the local jewelers. Most jewelers carry garnet collections.

If you decide to browse online, garnet happens to be the January birthstone, so you’ll find great collections at most major online jewelry retailers.

We recommend searching for garnet jewelry at these stores:

  • Etsy has a stunning range of garnet jewelry, ranging from a few dollars to several thousands, suiting every style and price point. You’ll find all colors of garnet and even rare varieties. Each Etsy boutique operates as its own store with its own policies, so check this prior to purchase.
  • Blue Nile has a very good garnet collection featuring high quality pieces at reasonable prices. Blue Nile is known for being the largest online diamond retailer and has a proven track record of many years.
  • Although James Allen specialises in diamonds, they have a small and exclusive selection of fine garnet jewelry on their site.

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