It is associated with fire, passion and romance.
The associations of this extremely popular gemstone are numerous: it is the birthstone for January; associated with the astrological signs of both Aquarius and Leo; and is also the recommended gift for both the 2nd and 6th wedding anniversaries.
Garnet occurs in a kaleidoscope of natural colours including red, orange, yellow, green, purple, brown, black, pink and colourless. Although there are some 30 different gems in the Garnet family, they all fall into one of six main families/species: Almandine, Andradite, Grossular, Pyrope, Spessartite or Uvarovite.
All Garnets feature the same cubic crystal structure; a wide range of differing chemical compositions and physical structures then provides us with the many wonderful varieties and natural colours.
Because members of the Garnet group are unusually linked due to their crystal structure (referred to as isomorphic), their differences in composition means that their hardness and refractive index can vary dramatically.
The following gemstones all belong to one of the six Garnet families/species: Mozambique Garnet, Colour Change Garnet, Hessonite, Malaia Garnet, Mandarin Garnet, Rhodolite, Tsavorite, Demantoid and Mali Garnet.
Whilst the hardness, refractive index and rarity varies immensely from one Garnet to another even within its family (technically speaking though, Garnets belong to a group and not a family), there is one thing in addition to their crystal structure that they all share in common: all of their colours are totally natural. As of today gem geeks and scientists have yet to find a way to enhance the look of a Garnet and quite frankly, the gems are so naturally beautiful that they don’t need to.
Garnet is steeped in history; it can be dated as far back as 3500BC, as it was discovered in a necklace uncovered in Egypt on the neck of a mummified body. Its name is derived from the Latin word “granatus” as it is similar in shape to the seed of a pomegranate. Incidentally, in Greek mythology this fruit is also regarded as a gift of love, and is said to symbolise eternity.
This jewel supposedly has the ability to illuminate even the darkest of rooms; it is written that Noah used the gem to light the inside of the ark. Another story tells of an old widow who, upon finding an injured crow in her garden, spent months nursing it back to good health. The widow became very attached to the bird and when the bird was fully recovered, she wept as she reluctantly released it. After several weeks had passed, while in her bed one night, the bird flew into her room and placed a large red Garnet at the side of her bed: the gem was said to have filled her room with light.
There are many other legends that involve Garnet’s mystical lighting and brightening capabilities (known technically today as fluorescence). For example, it has been suggested that Eastern Indians rubbed Garnet gemstones on themselves in belief that the gem’s glowing qualities would be transmitted into their glowing wellbeing. Several cultures have finely ground Garnet and heated it to act as a medicinal remedy for illness. Some healers continue to use it today as a cure for nightmares.
When studying the myths and legends surrounding Garnet, whether it be stories relating to the Aztecs, Romans, Egyptians, Native Americans or British Royalty, there is one theme common in all civilisations, across all periods of recorded time: Garnet is the ultimate gift of love. Today the gem continues to be a symbol of love, passion, eternity and warmth.