Garnet - A World of Color!
Its all in the name
Origin of unique garnet
Garnet has several different origins for its name. The most accepted is its derivation from the word “granatum” which refers to the pomegranate whose seeds it allegedly resembles. It used to be said that garnets came in every color but blue. However, that changed in the 1990’s when blue garnet (also known as color change garnet) was discovered in Madagascar.
Garnet is also the birthstone for January, the traditional anniversary gift for the second anniversary, and the state gemstone for Connecticut.
Garnets are reasonably hard in comparison to other minerals. Garnets are rated from 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale. The variation is due to the variety of species of garnets each having their own hardness rating.
When someone thinks of colorful gemstones, we often think of the big three - sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. However, there is one gemstone that is available in literally every color of the rainbow. That gemstone is the garnet. Most people think that garnet only comes in the dark red/orange color that they see at their friendly mall jewelry store. However, the true gemstone aficionado knows that the other colors of garnet are as beautiful as any precious gemstone and are much cheaper to collect! Lets venture into the different varieties of garnet, what makes this gemstone unique and the variety of different hues available.
Myths and Legends
There are many myths and legends surrounding gemstones, their history, and their practical uses. Garnets are no exception. One of the oldest myths involved the Greek Gods. Hades, god of the underworld, abducted Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, goddess of the harvest, to be his bride. Demeter was so saddened by this that she refused to let anything grow until Persephone was returned. Thus the first winter on Earth came to pass. Zeus, angered by all of this, demanded Hades return Persephone. Hades agreed to do this but Persephone, having been warned on her arrival in the underworld not to eat any of the fruit found there, took a small bite out of a pomegranate she found there in her haste to leave. For this one bite, she was required to return to the underworld for three months each year. Demeter, saddened once more, causes winter to return during these three months. Because of this myth, prominence is given to garnets as the gemstones for loved ones and also to heal broken friendships.
Biblical legends also exist for the garnet. Noah was alleged to have used a garnet to light the ark during the 40 days and nights of rain. It was also said that a garnet was one of the twelve stones of King Solomon’s armor. This stone was said to have protected him in battle, as well as to assist him in speaking with God.
The Egyptians and the Norsemen both buried their dead with garnets because, like Noah, it would be used for light; this time for safe and clear passage to the underworld. Garnets were used by the Kurds in the late 1800’s as bullets against the British Army in India because they believed that garnets were more lethal than steel.
Like most gemstones, the superstitious and mystical believed that garnets had magical properties that allow healing from all sorts of conditions, as well as provide mystic energies. Some of the conditions that garnets have been used for healing include gallstones, frostbite, arthritis, fever, depression, muscle weakness, infertility, and inflammations. Garnets have also been used to increase antibodies, regulate hormones, regulate the heart, give more energy, increase passion, and increase self-confidence.
As you can see, there is far more to the garnet than what is seen on the surface. It’s a complex mineral that comes in many varieties and colors. A true gem connoisseur can appreciate the subtleties and nuances in each gemstone, and they could spend years learning about garnets. The best thing about garnets is that, as a rule, they are not expensive stones. Even the most frugal collector could have a variety of types of garnets in his collection. It is a great stone to start a collection.
Types of Garnet
Garnets are derived from nesosilicates (SiO4) modified by other materials such as aluminum, iron, calcium, manganese, and magnesium. Each modification creates a separate species of garnet. There are numerous species of garnet, but there are six species that are more common than the others. They include: Almandine, Pyrope, Spessartine, Andradite, Grossular, and Uvarovite.
Almandines are almost uniformly some amount of dark red, but sometimes a more violet color. Its modifiers are iron and aluminum. Almandines are most commonly found in Sri Lanka and are often called "Ceylon Ruby". When they are violet in color, they are called "Syrian Garnet" which is named not from Syria, but from Syriam, an ancient city in Pegu which is in Burma (Myanmar).
Pyropes range in color from deep red to black. Its colors are modified by magnesium and aluminum. Its most popular type hails from certain mines in North Carolina and is called rhodolite. Rhodolites are violet/red in color and are a combination of both pyrope and almandine garnet in a 2:1 mix.
The blue color-change garnet is also a pyrope, but a mixture of pyrope and spessartine. The color-change garnet changes in color from grey/green blue in daylight to red/purple in incandescent light.
Spessartines range in color from violet/red to orange/yellow and its colors are modified by manganese and aluminum. Spessartines are found in Australia, Myanmar, India, Afghanistan, Israel, Madagascar, Tanzania and the US. The orange/yellow spessartines are known as "Mandarin Garnet" and are found exclusively in Madagascar.
Uvarovites are uniformly green in color and get that from calcium and chromium modifications. It gets its name from Count Sergei Semenovitch Uvarov, a Russian statesman and amateur mineral collector. It forms as fine crystals and the crystals are rarely large enough to be cut as gems. They would be normally seen as a block of crystals rather than an individual crystal. They are primarily found in Russia, but are also found in Canada, Northern Europe, and Northwest Australia.
Andradites are found in many colors such as red, yellow, brown, green, or black. Their color is determined by modifications of calcium and iron. It is found in Italy, the Ural Mountains of Russia, Arizona, California and in Ukraine.
One of the most prized of all gemstones is a Demantoid Garnet, a green garnet found in the Ural Mountains of Russia. They are nicknamed "the emerald of the Urals" for its beautiful green color. Demantoids are unique in that the most desirable stones have a special flaw in them - a yellowish feather in the stone that looks like a horse's tail. Top prices are paid for these special stones.
Grossular garnets come in a variety of colors including red, yellow, green, and a lovely cinnamon brown. Their colors are modified by calcium and aluminum though either can be replaced by either ferrous or ferric iron respectively. The more common variety of grossular is called hessonite from the Greek meaning inferior, because of its inferior hardness to zircon, which the yellow crystals resemble.
Green grossular garnets are found either in Siberia or in Kenya/Tanzania. Those in the latter region are known as Tsavorites, named for the Tsavo valley region in Kenya.
As you know, garnets come in a variety of beautiful colors. Tell us your favorite hue of this beautiful material.
What is your favorite garnet color?
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