Garnet: January's Birthstone

The word ‘garnet’ derives from the word ‘seed’ as it has a similar colour to that of a pomegranate seed. It’s quite fitting, as January is the month of new beginnings with resolutions and promises to be better.

All garnets have a refractive index, meaning light hits the inside of the stone, then is bounced back out giving it more brilliance. The term brilliance is used in gemology to describe the amount of light reflected out to the eye. Really this is all a fancy way of saying it looks extra sparkly.

Our January birthstone scores between a 6.5-7.5 on the Mohs scale, a test of strength. This means it is durable and strong, but just make sure it doesn’t suffer any hard blows. The birthstone has been believed to strengthen the health of the wearer, focusing on the heart.

If you’ve read our collection of birthstone blogs, you might have noticed a particular group of people who had a flair for gold and gems… the Ancient Egyptians. They were lovers of luxury and attached a lot of meaning to precious stones. In preparation for the afterlife, the Egyptians would adorn the tombs of loved ones with different gems, thinking they would take these with them after death. Gems were important to the living too. Jewellery was worn for many reasons, to show wealth, offer protection and attract prosperity. The colour of the gems were significant to the Egyptians, which is why red garnets were collected specifically.

There are many forms of garnets to consider if you are planning on buying one. The main ones are:

  • Pyrope and almandine which range from purple to orangish-red Spessartine is found in a variety of orange hues
  • Andradite comes in yellow and yellowish green Grossular has a large colour variety, from colourless to ambers to green
  • Pyrope, almandine and grossular are the main garnet species. Sometimes they are divided into categories because the vast colour variety can cause confusion.

For example, tsavorites is a grossular garnet variety, it is green. Hessonsite is also a grossular variety, it ranges from ambers to oranges to reds and browns. A demantoid is a green variety of andradite. This naming system makes it easier to understand what type of green garnet you have, so you can distinguish a green tsavorite from a green demantoid.

Garnets became popular for trade not just as jewellery but for far more unusual reasons. Romans would use garnets to stamp over wax to seal important documents, for example. The endless colours and variations make this gemstone desirable, versatile and good value for money. We have a selection of garnets, featured below is a unique bangle with real character.