A Girl’s Guide to Garnets
Move over diamonds, come January it’s the multifaceted face of the garnet that’s taking over the limelight in popular beaded jewelry designs. Despite popular presumption, January’s birthstone exist not only in the traditional deep red they are prized for, but in pink, violet, brown, orange, and even surprisingly in the decidedly un-garnet like hues of yellow, green, white and black. A handful of garnet varieties abound, so read on to see which one is right for you.
A deep, opaque red, the almandine garnet is the most common of the garnet family and the image that most springs to mind when we hear the word “garnet.” Due to its lack of luster, almandine garnets are generally not cut in the faceted way that many gemstones are to ensure the highest glimmer. Instead, most almandine garnets are used as cabochon jewelry, that is, it has been shaped and polished instead of cut. But once placed in a pendant or earrings, the unique look of the almandine garnet is a true standout piece.
The other most common type of garnet is the pyrope. Often found buried amidst diamond deposits, pyrope garnets are possibly the reddest among the garnets and can be easily mistaken for rubies. Pyrope comes from a Greek word meaning fire-eyed, and to gaze at a luminous pyrope garnet, one can see why–these gems seem to have a mesmerizing inner glow. Found everywhere from North Carolina to the Czech Republic, pyrope garnets make for a gorgeous piece of jewelry.
One of the most stunning and rare members of the garnet family is the mandarin garnet. So called for it’s fiery, orange tinted glow, mandarin garnets were first discovered in Namibia, Africa in 1991. So rare was this magical gem, that prices soared, causing men to dig deeper and deeper in the mines hoping that with every downward thrust of their chisels they would strike this shimmering orange gold. So hard to find were mandarin garnets that prices rose astronomically until a new cache was discovered in Nigeria in the mid-1990s.
Demantoid garnets may be the most unusual of the garnet siblings, as their color can be as green as any emerald. This unusual garnet, first discovered in Russia in the late 19th century, was described as being as brilliant and sparkling as a diamond. In fact, Peter Carl Fabergé (of Fabergé egg fame) was so enamored with demantoid garnets that he fashioned exquisite jewelry with the gems. Demantoid garnets went out of high fashion in 1919, but their beauty ensured a resurgence that has been taking place since the discovery of new demantoid mines in such far flung locales as Namibia, Iran and Madagascar.
Garnets gemstones are often combined with freshwater pearls when designing beaded jewelry. Garnet is also available in brilliant deep red garnet crystal bead that can be used to enhance handmade earrings, beaded anklets and bracelets & necklaces.