As we enter 2021, we have been researching the birthstones for the months at the beginning of the year. The garnet is the January birthstone.
Garnet takes its name from the Latin ‘granatus,’ meaning grain or seed. Garnets exist in a variety of colours. Most commonly red, but also in purple, orange, brown, yellow and green hues. The main types of garnet used in jewellery include almandine, demantoid, tsavorite, hessonite, pyrope and spessartine.
Demantoid garnets have characteristic inclusions that resemble horsetails, whereas hessonite garnets have an unmistakable treacly internal appearance. Garnets are fairly abundant and can be found in various locations across the world, most notably Russia, India, USA, Africa, Central and South America.
The Ancient Romans used carved garnet signet rings to stamp the wax seals on their important documents. Garnet was often used as the gemstone inlay as part of the cloisonné technique, common in Anglo-Saxon England. Thousands of garnet cloisonné pieces of jewellery and armoury were discovered in the famous Staffordshire Hoard of 2009.
Traditionally gifted on a 2nd wedding anniversary, to represent passion, love and friendship. One of the largest rough and almost perfectly formed garnets known to exist is the ‘Subway Garnet’. This was found in August 1885 in Manhattan, New York, during an excavation of a subway. It is estimated to weigh around 22,000 carats and is stored at the American Museum of Natural History.