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Garnet: A versatile gemstone

The term garnet is a collective term for a group of minerals that have a similar crystal structure but differ from each other in chemical composition. Due to this difference in composition, the garnet family consists of gemstones that differ greatly from each other in terms of color and properties. What all garnets have in common is that they have been used in jewelry for centuries. If you've ever seen garnet jewelry you'll understand why, the classic combination is beautiful and timeless.
Gold pendant with garnet


Nature “sharpened”

The first garnet jewelry is at least 5000 years old: Garnet bead necklaces have already been found in Egyptian tombs from 3000 BC. The earliest grenades were hardly sharpened by human hands because this technique was not yet available. The first garnet jewelry therefore often consisted of beads that had been 'cut' by nature; riverbeds had softened the stone's shapes for centuries. Garnets have also been found in Celtic graves, which have been cut into shape in a simple way.

Against nightmares and fears

In the Middle Ages, garnets were not only worn for their beauty, but it was believed that the stone helped against nightmares and depression. Garnet was an important stone for early Christians, as it appears several times in the Bible. In the Old Testament, for example, it is described that God gave King Solomon four precious stones, including garnet. Also, according to Noah, used a grenade to light his ark. Finally, the deep red color of garnet was reminiscent of the Passion of Christ. Therefore, many Christians wore garnet in rings or as a pendant to show their faith. 

Although garnet has been worn in jewelry for centuries, it has never had the same status as, for example, sapphire, ruby or emerald. This is mainly because garnet is found all over the world and is therefore less rare. Garnets were already the most traded gems in Europe in Roman times, according to the Roman writer Pliny the Elder.

bohemian grenades

New discoveries of grenade mines did, however, revive interest. In the 19th century, a large new quantity of garnets in a deep red color were found in the Czech Republic, today known as Bohemian garnets. This discovery gave rise to a new industry in the region that produced jewelry on a large scale with this type of garnet, which was often found in small crystals but was more intense in color.

Something similar happened in the south of France when, at the end of the 18th century, garnets with a bright pink color were found, which came to be known as Perpignan garnets. Both European variants were a big hit in the 19th century, but in the 20th century the mines became exhausted and the interest in these grenade variants slowly disappeared.

From pink to deep red and purple

Because the garnet mineral group consists of several different gemstones, garnets exist in different colors; the most famous are the almandine and pyrope garnet, which are pink to red and purple in color. These variants are found all over the world. There is also grossular garnet, which is yellow, orange or brown in color. Two green varieties, demantoite and tsavorite, originate in a different layer in the Earth's crust and are therefore rarer.

In addition to different colors, garnet can also have several other interesting properties. For example, there are color-changing grenades, which appear to have a different color in daylight than in artificial light. Some grenades have chatoyance effect, meaning a streak or star shape will appear if the grenade is viewed at different angles in bright sunlight. This effect is created by minuscule linear inclusions in the material.

Garnets come in various colors and compositions, but most variants are not very rare and therefore not very expensive. Pyrope and almandine garnets are the most common and consist of the colors red to purple. The orange and green variants arise from a different, more rare chemical combination of elements in the Earth's crust. The most valuable type of garnet is uvavorite, a very rare poisonous green garnet variety found in the Urals. 

Curious about this classic beauty? Discover our collection of vintage garnet jewelry here .