Garnet Gemstones: A Journey from Ancient Origins

Garnet, The Birthstone for January – The history of garnets in jewellery are as rich as their colours, with  jewellery dating back to Ancient Rome and Egypt.

Garnet gemstones, with their rich palette of colours, have captivated humanity for millennia. The name Garnet is derived from the Latin word “Granatus” referring to the deep red seeds of pommegrate fruit- whose seeds are similar in colour and shape to rough Garnet in crystal form.

Garnets in Antique Jewellery- Throughout history, they have been a popular choice for jewellery, especially in antique pieces. Bohemian Garnet deposits  were discovered around 1500 in the Czech republic and lead to a surge in Garnet jewellery in Europe.

The golden age for Garnet Jewellery was undoubtedly the late 18th and early 19th centuries! Flat-cut Almandines of cushion, pear, and circular shapes were set into parures, which included necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and brooches often set in gilded silver, with ornate pieces displaying the splendour of this pyrope gemstone! Its rich fieriness and versatility makes it a very popular stone of choice even in the 21st Century!

Ancient Times and Roman Era Garnets have been known for thousands of years, with remnants of garnet jewellery found dating back to the Bronze Age. The ancient Egyptians, around 3100 BC, fell for their allure and used garnets as inlays in their jewellery and carvings, considering them a symbol of Life.

In ancient Rome, garnets were polished into cabochons or cut into cameos and intaglios, depicting deities and classical figures, and used as seals. During the Middle Ages, garnets adorned the regalia of clergy and nobility. The Romans esteemed garnets for their vivid colours, conveying wealth and status.

Medieval Period and Renaissance During the 5th and 6th centuries, garnets were the stone of choice for Anglo-Saxon brooches, pendants, and buckles. By the late 16th and 17th centuries, garnets were used throughout Europe in rings, earrings, and opulent pendants, often accompanied by colourful enamel and richly detailed gold mounts. These garnets were typically rich, purplish- red Almandines from India and Ceylon, polished into large, irregular shaped hollow-back cabochons known as “carbuncles”.

Modern Times Today, garnets continue to be a popular choice for jewellery, appreciated for their sheer beauty and broad range of colours, durability and versatility.

Garnets as January Birthstone Garnets are not only historical gemstones but also hold significance as the birthstone for January. They are believed to bring good health, wealth, and happiness to those who wear them. Garnets come in an extraordinary range of colours, including orange, yellow, purple, and vibrant green.

Tip: As a novice collector- Look out for “vintage” brooches or pendants at markets- often mistaken for costume jewellery and available at rock bottom prices, antique bohemian pieces may be dirty, the gilding may be rubbed off exposing mottled metal… but once lovingly cleaned you may have bought yourself a treasure




MOHS SCALE: 6.5- 7.5


ORIGIN: Australia, China, South Africa, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Brazil, India

Garnets typically are devided in mineral composition as: Aluminum   Members that include types such as: (Almandine; Pyrope or Spessartine- these again may have mixed varietals such as Rhodolite Garnet which is made up of Almandine as well as Pyrope; or Malayan Garnet, made up of Pyrope and Spessartine!).

Calcium Members will include Andradite (the Demantoid; Melanite or Topazolite garnets); Grossular Garnets will include types such as the orange hue of Hessonite; and the wonderful Uvarovite Garnets that are Tsavorite- an apple green Grossular garnet from the Tsavo region in Kenya.

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