Though the most common variety of garnet is red (also the color that most people tend to think of), garnet is found naturally in almost every color, with the rarest variety being blue. There are 12 different types of garnet. Color change garnets are among the rarest of all gemstones, and they are actually a mixture of garnet types that change color depending on if they’re viewed in natural or artificial light.
Due to its many varieties, garnets are often mistaken for other gemstones, and the most common (red) is often confused with the ruby. Red garnets can usually be distinguished from the ruby as they exhibit a darker brownish-red hue, whereas rubies are often a true red to blood-red color. Garnets are also attracted to neodymium magnets (the most common type of permanent magnet), and these magnets are sometimes used to separate garnets from other gemstones.
Another, and extremely rare type of garnet is the star garnet. Star garnets are so rare that they have only been found in two places in the world; in the state of Idaho in the USA and in India.
Star garnet gemstones are usually opaque and deep brownish-red or reddish-black. Like all star gems, the star effect, or “asterism” is caused by inclusions of rutile (titanium dioxide). There are only two types of stars: a 4-rayed star and a 6-rayed star, the latter being the rarest form.
In history, garnets have been used by the ancient Romans who incorporated them into their jewelry design, and traded them for other goods and services. Egyptian pharaohs also adorned garnet jewelry and used them in some ceremonial practices.
Garnets are relatively hard and durable, ranging between 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale. As a result of this, they are very versatile and can be cut into any fashion and shape imaginable. For garnets that are not usually found in large sizes, the cut is dictated by that which will allow for the most carat weight to be retained. Garnets are not enhanced or treated in any way, and the color of any particular stone is the most important quality factor.
Garnet is the birthstone for January, and the second anniversary stone. Often known as the ‘traveller’s stone’, it was thought to be able to show people the way along their journey. It is also said to promote business and compassion, as well as having healing properties with blood and circulation. Again, who knows if any of that is true…we like garnets because they’re pretty or handsome, depending on your perspective.
Cleaning your garnet is easy because they’re tough and durable. Simply use warm soapy water with a soft cloth or toothbrush, and rinse well. As usual, store your jewelry in a fabric lined jewelry box, or wrap in a soft cloth to keep scratches at bay.