The Gemstone Garnet

The gemstone garnet is the birthstone for January and the official gem to give for the 2nd and 6th wedding anniversaries.  The word ‘garnet’ comes from the Latin word ‘granatus’ meaning ‘grain’ or ‘seed’.  Red is the color we most associate with the gemstone ‘garnet’. Garnets have been confused with rubies for hundreds of years. However, garnet species come in many different colors including colorless, pink, orange, blue, brown, black and various shades of red and green.  The most common color of garnet is reddish-brown. The rarest color is the blue garnet, discovered in the late 1990’s in Bekily, Madagascar.  It has also been found in the United States (Arizona), Kenya, Tanzania, Turkey and Russia. Other more common colors have been found in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Scotland and Switzerland.

Orange Garnet

Orange Garnet

Garnet is a group containing closely-related isomorphous (having similar appearance but genetically different) minerals that form a series with one another.  Below you will find the main garnet groups and their colors:

-Andradite – black, brown or green

-Almandine- reddish brown to brown

-Grossular – colorless, orange or green

-Pyrope – deep red to ruby red

-Uvarovite – green

-Spessartine – pink, orange and brown

The main difference between members of the garnet family are physical properties, slight variations in density, refraction and color.

Pink Garnet

Pink Garnet

One of the most common uses for garnet is jewelry.  Garnet sand is also sometimes used for water filtration.  Harder garnets are used as abrasives in sandpaper.  Garnets rank 6.5-7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale.  In past times, garnets were exchanged between friends as gifts to demonstrate their affection for each other and to insure that they would meet again.

Remember, if a red gemstone is being advertised as an ‘Cape Ruby’, ‘Arizona Ruby’ or ‘American Ruby’, it is really a red garnet.  Don’t be fooled.

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