What are Garnets?
A Garnet is a semi-precious gemstone often found in antique jewellery. Known for its deep red colours its often been used instead of the higher priced ruby alternative, and yet this stone should not be undersold. It is a truly beautiful gemstone. With a hardness of over 7 on the Mohs scale, it is a hard wearing gem and is often set in vintage jewellery with pearls in rings, brooches and pendants.
However, this is a stone that comes in many colours. It is believed by many just to be red, yet the colours it can be are almost endless, except blue it seems. The red pyrope garnet is the most commonly used as a gemstone for jewellery, but in recent years, green (grossular) garnets have become popular. The cuts of garnets can be square, step cut, round, and very often cabouchon (a smooth glossy pebble like stone). Even star affect garnets are available, this is a colour changing stone that reflects light as if gazing at a star.
Known in the Middle Ages as the carbuncle stone, it is the birthstone for January. Other names known are the Arizona ruby, or the Mexican ruby. Man has known this stone for millennia and it is said that Noah used a garnet lamp to steer him through the night. Many an explorer carried the stone as a talisman to protect him in the night protecting him from evil or disaster, one wonder’s if Scott of the Antarctic carried one, but more likely Shackleton did!
Found in various parts of the world, from Madagascar, Brazil, Sri Lanka, and Russia, and a few others. Green varieties are found in Kenya, Canada and Pakistan. The pinkish red garnet, the almandine was highly popular in Victorian times, its raspberry red colour looks wonderful with pearls. Orange garnets or spessartites were found a few years ago, which were found near the Kunene River on the border between Namibia and Angola. The had been found originally in Germany, but until this latest find were rarely used in jewellery.
The best known other garnet is the green tsavorite belonging to the grossularite group. It was Tiffanys in New York that gave the stone its name when discovered by British geologist Cambell Bridges, discovered near the Tsavo National Park in the north east of Tanzania. A beautiful velvety stone with wonderful brilliance.
The garnet, partially the red varieties are still very popular today, and on our website we have many examples from under £100 to a around £350, depending on size and what they are set with, visit www.vintagetom.co.uk for a lovely selection under brooches, and ‘other rings’.