January’s birthstone is garnet, a stone with an inner fire that defies even the coldest winter days. And the month of January is filled with those. January is named for Janus, the two faced Roman God of beginnings, endings, gates and doors. This is because January pays tribute to the year just past and harbingers the journeys we’ll make into the New Year.
As we make those journeys, whether as trips or metaphorical resolutions, no more fitting birthstone could guide us than garnet. This is because ancient cultures like the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians and even Sumerians used garnet beaded jewelry as protective talismans for journeyers. The garnet appears in the bible as the fourth stone in Aaron’s breastplate and Noah is said to have used a garnet lantern to guide his Ark at night.
For those seeking garnet’s sure guidance, garnet beaded jewelry is ideal. But garnet rings are particularly popular birthstone jewelry for January, because a ring represents the completion of the yearly cycle.
So what color should garnet connoisseurs wear?
Blood red garnet beaded jewelry stands out like a blooming rose against January snows; the gemstone’s name itself derives from the pomegranate, a fruit with sparkling seeds that resemble garnet beads. Certainly, deep crimson is garnet’s most popular and iconic shade.
But January’s birthstone can be any shade, and garnet beaded jewelry can be found in a rainbow of hues. For a time, it was believed that garnets came in every color but blue, but the discovery of blue garnets in Madagascar in the 1990s put that idea to rest. Now, smoky blue garnet is amongst the most prized gems both for its rarity and its ability to change color in different light.
Unusually colored garnets each have their own names. For example, purple garnets are known as Rhodolite, mandarin orange garnets are called Spessartine, brown or black garnets are known as Andradite, and emerald green garnets go by the name of Tsavorith. This is to name only a few.
This wide variety of names for January’s birthstone stems from the fact that garnet is not a single gemstone, but rather, a family of related stones. What all varieties of garnet share is a common formation and cubic crystalline structure. Garnets are uniformly brilliant, natural, and durable. Garnets are also amongst the hardest gemstones, rating between a 7 and 7.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, and garnet beaded jewelry is generally affordable, making an ideal birthstone.
In fact, there are no known enhancements for garnets, so it’s difficult to fool a consumer with inferior quality garnet beaded jewelry. Perhaps it is this inviolable purity that turned garnet into a symbol for remembrance and faithful friendship. After all, historically, garnet has been a gift exchanged between good friends who are parting, to ensure that they meet again. January’s birthstone is even said to rekindle old feelings.
Thus, in a month when we gather with family and sing of old acquaintances forgotten and never brought to mind, garnet birthstone jewelry stands as a tribute to January’s two aspects--reminding us of the past and guiding us into the future.