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Red with orange, brown or purple hues
Varying silicate minerals
6.5 – 7.5 Mohs Scale
2nd and 18th
Garnet is a gemstone steeped in royal lore. Archeologists have often discovered garnet amulets placed around the necks of pharaohs in Old Egyptian tombs. Ancient Roman leaders wore magnificent garnets signet rings – they used them for stamping the wax seals on important documents and letters.
In China, a garnet was believed to represent a tiger’s soul, transformed into a precious red gem after the noble animal’s death.
In the 21st century, garnet continues to be a sought after and fashionable gem. In Hollywood it is often seen in big, show stopping jewellery pieces – like Sandra Bullock’s garnet snake bracelet and Kate Beckinsale’s huge chandelier earrings at the 2009 Golden Globes.
Before her engagement, the Duchess of Cambridge was often photographed wearing a pearl and garnet gold ring, most probably given to her by Prince William. Garnet is of course Catherine Middleton’s birthstone, for the month of January.
Garnets are formed from many different silicate minerals. Garnet crystals therefore have varied chemical compositions and come in a range of colours.
The best known red varieties are Pyrope (orange-red or dark red), Spessartite (orange-red and brown-red) and Rhodolite (purple-red). Green garnets are usually Demantoid and Tsavorite.
Garnet ranks 6.5 – 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness.
Its name comes from the Latin “granatus”, meaning “seeds”, possibly because a cluster of garnet crystals resembles the red seeds inside a pomegranate.
While garnet deposits are found in Africa, South America and Russia, we choose to source our garnets in India.
Red Indian garnet has the best clarity and deepest colour and the country has some of the world’s most abundant garnet mines.
Like diamonds, some types of garnets are used for cutting and polishing glass, as well as being used to adorn jewellery.
This dual demand for garnet has led India to develop superlative modern mining practices and the country’s gemstone production is conflict-free.
As the birthstone for January, garnet is said to inspire love and loyalty. The red garnet’s fiery sparkle and symbolism make it a perfect gift for significant dates and romantic occasions.
It is also the gem traditionally gifted on 2nd and 18th wedding anniversaries.
Jackie Kennedy (later Onassis) was always famous for her elegant jewellery. When her estate was auctioned after her death, one of the most expensive jewellery items sold was her 19th century garnet cabochon brooch.
A “cabochon” is a gem that’s been polished into a round or bead-like shape, but not faceted. The brooch fetched an amazing auction sale price of over £93,000.
Red garnet usually has brown, orange or purple undertones. This means it combines well will autumn colours, including white, grey, cream, black, earthy yellow, brown, orange and purple.
Here you can see actress Ginnifer Goodwin at the Environmental Media Awards, her garnet drop earrings punctuating a simple yet elegant look.
Garnet works well with white metals, but looks particularly sumptuous set in yellow gold and combined with pearls and opals.
How to assess a Garnet’s quality and value?
Our gem expert determines a garnet’s value by examining its clarity, colour, cut and carat weight – much in the same way as diamonds.
Although garnets can come in several colours, red garnet varieties are generally favoured in jewellery.
Clarity should always be your first criteria to consider when buying red garnet jewellery.
While colour is important too, a garnet’s colour cannot truly shine through unless the gem is clear from cloudiness and impurities.
Garnets come in many colours, but red garnets are most often used in jewellery. This is due to their beauty, clarity, durability and abundant availability. Although a red garnet’s primary colour is always red, its secondary hue can vary between orange, brown and purple. These are natural tonal variations. When buying a garnet, focus on picking one with good intensity of colour, rather than a very specific hue.
Garnets are found in all sizes, but green garnet is slightly more rare and expensive than red garnet. Red garnet is one of the more affordable gemstones on the market because it is so readily available. Other gemstones like emeralds are hard to find as big, pure crystals and their carat price rises the bigger they get. This is not the case for red garnet, its per-carat price increasing only a little when moving up in gem size. That’s why it’s a great gemstone to choose for big pieces of jewellery, like cocktail rings.
Red garnets tend to have the best purity at the best prices. When buying red garnet jewellery, you should expect no eye-visible inclusions or fissures. Garnets are known for a fiery brilliance that is especially noticeable in soft lighting, such as candle light.
Since red garnets are very transparent, they can often be cut into large shapes. Oval and round shapes tend to be favoured for jewellery, but the garnet crystal lends itself well to all kinds of cuts. It can therefore be seen as cabochons (gems that are cut and polished but not faceted) as well as fancy designer shapes like hearts.
Red garnet does not need any artificial treatments. An expert cut and a polish are all this gem requires to reveal its beautiful red fire. You can therefore expect reputable jewellers to sell them as natural and untreated.
Red garnets should not be exposed to excessive heat as this could damage them. Read more about garnet care and cleaning below.
Garnets are quite brittle because they are crystals.
Always remove rings when washing up or going to the gym. Never place a garnet together with other gems, as these can scratch it.
If your garnet has any cracks or larger inclusions, it may break when exposed to sudden temperature changes – so steam cleaning is not advised.
When cleaning garnet at home, first soak it in hand-warm, soapy water. Then scrub it very gently with a soft toothbrush and pat dry.
Red Garnet | GIA
Cutting Garnet | GIA
Almandine Garnet, India