Birthstones and Gemstones: Smokin’ Garnet — Just the Facts

Okay, January kids, you absolutely cannot complain about your birthstone, garnet. Yes, I know you may think of garnets as the dark purplish or brownish red stones you see in antique stores. And yes, it’s true that their very name may have come from the Latin word for pomegranate–granatum—referring to their most common color: red.

ABOVE: This garnet collection is a small selection of the range of color available in garnets. Photo Wimon Manorotkul. Courtesy Pala International

pyrope garnet

This shocking hot pink 15.25 carat pyrope garnet leaves me without words. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a testament to the surprises the garnet world keeps giving us. Photo Mia Dixon. Courtesy Pala International.

But garnets offer so much more than that. They can be transparent, translucent, opaque, and every color but blue: from blood red to purples and pinks, to yellow, gold and orange, to a range of greens. There are star garnets and color-change garnets. You’ll be hard-pressed not to find something you love.

(If you love blue and wish you had a blue birthstone, I’m afraid you’ll have to take that up with your parents.)

Most species of garnets have been cut and set into jewelry, except for uvarovite, which is rarely large enough to cut. But when they are gathered together in a drusy they can be spectacular. Photo . For more about uvarovite drusy, see “Sparkling Like the Morning Grass” in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist January/February 2018, followed by the wonderful pendant by Lexi Erickson set with uvarovite drusy.

Most species of garnets have been cut and set into jewelry, except for uvarovite, which is rarely large enough to cut. But when they are gathered together in a drusy they can be spectacular.  For more about uvarovite drusy, see “Sparkling Like the Morning Grass” in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist January/February 2018, followed by the wonderful pendant by Lexi Erickson set with uvarovite drusy as seen here. Photo: Jim Lawson.

Not only are garnets one of the most colorful gems, they are among the most wearable of gemstones, too. They’re hard, ranging in hardness from 6.5 to 7.5, and they take a gorgeous polish. There are no directions of cleavage in garnets so they’re durable enough to wear in any type of jewelry. That’s not to say they’re indestructible. Garnets may harbor inclusions that can cause internal strain. Using a steam cleaner or putting them into an ultrasonic is chancy with such stones. But that’s true of any gemstone.

Garnets can fit almost any budget, though you may not find the color you want in the price you can afford. Tsavorite is one of the most beautiful of garnets, with its rich brilliant green hue, but it’s one of the most expensive. The orangish or purplish red almandites are the most common and the least expensive, as you might expect. But somewhere along the color and price continuum, you are sure to find the garnet that is just right for you.

For more about those garnet names that I just threw around, read the next post…


Sharon Elaine Thompson is a GG and FGA who has been writing on gemstone and jewelry topics for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 1987. She also writes a line of Birthstone Romances under the name Liz Hartley.


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