Garnet refers to a family of different garnet gemstones. Garnets are often characterized as some of the most precious and important colored stones due to their alluring brilliance and rigidity. Garnet is also the January birthstone, and the name is derived from the Latin word “granatus” meaning like grain. Garnets are commonly known to be red, although they exist in many different colors and chemical formulas; each also has a distinct set of purported spiritual properties. All the different varieties of garnets share one thing in common; the ingrain crystalline structure, the only variance is the chemical composition. According to legend and folklore, garnets were some of the most significant talismans of ancient times. The gemstones were prized as both ornaments and stones are still believed by some to possess supernatural curative and protective powers.
As a sensual stone, garnet signifies love and purification, as well as the primordial fire. In the contemporary setting, Garnet gemstones have often been referred to as the stones of the successful business. It is believed that when you place three or more garnet stones on your work desk, your business fortunes will take a drastic turn for the better. Another strongly held belief is that garnets can aid in curing depression, particularly if they are placed under the pillow; others still believe that garnets can increase one’s self-esteem and popularity when worn as jewelry. The red garnet has historical ties to the ancient Roman world, and in the modern-day, it is also the state mineral of Connecticut.
Below is a summary of the well-known Garnet varieties – in particular, we’ve tried to highlight those that can be found in or used for jewelry.
The Almandine is the most common form of Garnet; however, the gemstone quality Almandine is less common, and mostly the mineral is found in opaque forms that aren’t suitable for gemstone use. The Almandine is a deep, darker red shade, which distinguishes it from the lighter hues of the Pyrope Garnet and the Rhodolite. Almandine is quite a popular gemstone for jewelry use thanks to its good hardness, and in bead or cabochon form can also be used by hobbyist jewelry makers for their own projects.
Andradite Garnets are the variant of Garnet with the best luster, but similar to Almandine (above), the transparent gem-quality variety of Andradite is rare despite the abundance of (mostly opaque) Andradite mineral overall. In fact, the term Andradite is actually rarely used in the gemstone trade, and most gem-quality Andradite is referred to by its own specific name depending on color – Demantoid for the green variety, Melanite for the opaque black or dark red or brown variety, and Topazolite for the yellow variety. Demantoid is rare and quite valuable, and are particularly sought after when the gemstone shows brilliance and fire. Topazolite is rarely used for jewelry, as it is not often found in large enough crystals. Melanite is gaining popularity as dark-colored, and black gemstones become more common, and is probably the most well-known form of Black Garnet, to the point where it is often referred to by this name.
Spessartite is the orange Garnet variety and is also known as Spessartine. However, Spessartine generally refers to the mineral, and Spessartite is used more frequently in the gem trade. The color can range from yellow-orange to orange-red – the yellow or red tints are caused by impurities in the gemstone’s structure. Gem quality Spessartite was once quite an uncommon find, but more recently, new deposits have been discovered, and as such, the Spessartite Garnet has been entering the mainstream. Spessartites from different sources often have different names in the gemstone trade – for example, Mandarin Spessartite or Mandarin Garnet usually refers to stones from Namibia and Mozambique, whereas Malaya Garnet is probably from Tanzania or Kenya. Spessartite has a decent hardness and is suitable for a wide range of jewelry applications.
Pyrope Garnet is the name for another variant of red-colored Garnet and can easily be confused for Almandine – generally speaking, Almandine is slightly darker and browner, and Pyrope Garnet is lighter and more transparent. When people imagine Garnets, they are probably thinking of Pyrope Garnets, as generally speaking, the color red is associates with the Garnet family of gemstones. Pyrope Garnets have great colors and are very affordable, making them a popular choice for both professional and DIY jewelry makers.
Rhodolite is a gemstone falling somewhere between the Pyrope and Almandine Garnets (in its chemical structure), and is a very popular pink/violet colored gemstone option. Rhodolite is often without many flaws, has quite a unique color, and is suitably hard and durable, making it a popular choice of pink gemstone for the jewelry industry. The name Rhodolite comes from the Greek word for Rose (‘rhodon’), and despite ending with ‘ite’, is not a mineral of its own but falls squarely into the Garnet group of minerals. If you’re looking specifically for an affordable pink gemstone option, Rhodolite is probably your best bet.
The Grossular Garnet comes in a wide variety of colors, but its pure form is a white/colorless gemstone. The various colors that can arise in Grossular Garnets stem from the different types of impurities that can arise within the gemstones’ structures. Different colors and varieties of Grossular Garnets often have individual gemstone trade names. Of these, the valuable green Tsavorite and the orange Hessonite are the most well known, although there are a few varieties beyond these two.
The Tsavorite is emerald green and is exceedingly valuable, coming from only a few sources, and is named after Tsavo National Park, which is one of the places it can be found. Tsavorite gemstones are pretty pricey, and the more intensely green the gem, generally, the more expensive.
Hessonite is the other well-known form of Grossular Garnet and is an orange or light brown gemstone. It is also sometimes referred to as ‘cinnamon stone’ due to its shared color with the spice. The similarly-colored Spessartite, covered earlier often overshadow hessonite, but in many cases is actually the more affordable option between the two.
Other varieties of Grossular Garnet include Hydroglossular Garnet or Hydrogarnet, which can resemble Jade, Imperial Garnet which is a light pink variety, Leuco-Garnet, which is white/colorless, Mint Garnet, which is a minty light green, and Raspberry Garnet, which shares its color with its namesake fruit.
Color change Garnet
Color change Garnet is a gemstone that falls somewhere in between Pyrope and Spessartite and is known for its ability to change colors under different light sources. Under bright daylight, the color is often yellow or green, but under man-made light sources, the gemstone can appear to be a shade of violet or pink. For a gemstone with such a unique property (shared by only a few other gemstones like Alexandrite), the color change Garnet is surprisingly affordable.
Garnets Stones – A Summary
There is a wide variety of Garnets available on the market, and if you take into account the various location-based trade names, the selection can seem limitless. The luster of garnets often either falls into the vitreous or resinous categories, and while transparent gem-quality Garnets can often be found in jewelry, opaque versions of the mineral also find use in various industrial processes. Most of the world’s Garnet Gemstones are mined in Africa, although huge deposits of the stone have been discovered in places like Australia, the United States, Russia, and India. In the US, most of the garnets produced are of the fine gem quality. The most valuable Garnets are probably the two green varieties, the lighter shade Demantoid and more intense Tsavorite.
Click here for Semi Precious Stones Chart.