While the first garnets in recorded history were red, garnets actually appear in every color of the rainbow except blue. Not only do garnets have many colors; they also have many names: almandine, andradite, demantoid, grossularite, hessonite, pyrope, rhodolite, tsavolite, spessartine, and uvarovite, to name a few.
The most popular garnets are the warm red pyrope, the cool red almandine, and the green grossular varieties. See below for details on specific varieties of garnet.
Caring for Garnets
All garnets share a similar structure and composition and are relatively hard, but garnets may be easily scratched by metals.
The word garnet is derived from the Latin word for “seed like”, since the shape and color of the mineral reminded early scientists of pomegranate seeds.
A Light in the Dark
Garnets have been known to man for thousands of years. According to Talmudic legend, Noah’s ark was lit by a single large red garnet. Garnets are also found in jewelry from early Egyptian, Greek, and Roman times. Early explorers liked to carry a garnet as a protective stone, as it was believed to light up the night and protect from evil.
Dreaming of Garnet
In Victorian times, dreaming of garnet foreshadowed the solution of a mystery.
Red Pyrope Garnet: The Bohemian Garnet
Pyrope garnet derives its name from the Greek word pyropos, meaning “fiery”, referring to its sparkling warm red hue. For over 500 years, artisans in Bohemia have made fine jewelry with pyrope garnets. Pyrope garnet was the fashionable gemstone of the 18th and 19th centuries. During the Victorian period Bohemian garnets were world famous. Since pyrope garnets are generally small, Bohemian garnet jewelry was traditionally set with a many small stones, set close together, like the seeds of a pomegranate.
Red Almandine Garnet
Cool red almandine garnets derive their name from an ancient town in Asia Minor called Albanda, the source of almandine garnets traded throughout the ancient world. In 300 BC, Greek philosopher and student of Aristotle, Theophrastus called almandine garnets “virtually the most valuable of stones.” The larger central stones of rosette settings are usually almandine garnet, since almandine garnets naturally grow in larger sizes than the petite pyrope garnet.
Red Rhodolite Garnet
Velvety red with a raspberry undertones, rhodolite garnets are a cross between almandine and pyrope garnets.
Orange Spessartite Garnet:
The reddish orange spessartite garnet, named for its place of discovery in Germany and very rare before 1991, was a gemstone for serious collectors only. Then in 1991 at the Kunene River on the border between Namibia and Angola, a deposit of radiant red orange spessartites were discovered. By 1994 the gemstone more commonly known as the Mandarin Garnet was an industry favorite.
Green Grossular Garnet:
Owing to their distinctive green color, grossular garnets derive their name from the Latin botanical name for “gooseberry” (R. grossularia). Grossular garnets on the market today are transparent to semi-opaque and range in color from green to yellow or brown.
Popular green grossular garnets are the tsavolite (or tsavorite) and the demantoid. In 1999 extensive grossularite deposits were discovered in Mali. The tsavolite garnet, named for its place of discovery near the Tsavo National Park in Tanzania, ranges in color from light spring green to intense blue green to velvety forest green. Unlike many other gemstones, the tsavorite garnet is neither burnt nor oiled. Like all the other garnets it is naturally unadulterated. Demantoid garnet, a favorite of Fabergé is among the rarest and most precious of all garnets.
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