By Kim Parker
You’d be forgiven for automatically associating garnets with all shades of red. After all, January’s birthstone takes its name from the Latin word ‘granatum’, which means ‘seed’, and refers to the gemstone’s striking resemblance to the scarlet-coloured arils (edible seeds) of the pomegranate.
It’s certainly true that fiery-hued garnets have been favoured for millennia. Egyptian pharaohs wore garnet necklaces to channel their supposed healing properties and the ancient Romans used carved garnet rings to seal the wax on important documents. Both the Anglo Saxons and the Celts adorned themselves with the stone, believing it protected them from harm, as did Native American healers. In China, where the colour red is considered particularly auspicious, garnets were considered the crystalised form of a tiger’s soul. Even Noah is said to have chosen to bring a glowing red ‘carbuncle’ – a name commonly associated with garnets – into the ark to act as a source of light, when neither the sun nor the moon was visible during the flood.
But garnets are actually composed of a range of chemical compositions. As such they can also be found in a veritable rainbow of shades including violet, blue, green, orange and even colour-changing species. During the 19th century, rare green demantoid garnets were discovered in in the Russian Urals and became highly sought after amongst jewellers including Peter Carl Fabergé. Mandarin-coloured spessartite garnets were unearthed in Namibia as recently as the 1990s. Yet their vivid colour and intensely refractive properties ensured they rapidly became one of the most brilliant and valuable gems in a jeweller’s repertoire.
Garnets also make the perfect gift for anyone born during the first month of the year. Indeed, in European folklore, this birthstone has been regarded as a symbol of friendship, vitality, and trust. Whilst in Indian astrology, the gem is said to boost positivity and confidence, and encourage creative thinking. Colour, light, vigour, and friendship – what more could one want during the dark days of winter?
Here we’ve selected 20 of the loveliest garnet jewels available to buy now – at all price points.
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