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Garnet: birthstone for Capricorns

tsavorite garnet Another original design by Christopher EvansMy sister was born in January and the birthstone for Capricorns is the garnet.  The first time I heard of the gemstone garnet was when I asked my grandmother if her engagement ring had a ruby in it.

“No, love,” she replied. “It’s just a garnet.”

From then on, I thought of garnets as being not much more than a poor man’s ruby – but oh how wrong I was!

The name ‘garnet’ is not one single gemstone, but actually describes a collection of several closely related minerals.  They come in a variety of colours, of which of course the best known is red.  When you hear a gemstone described as a garnet, this is usually referring to the red variety.  Other coloured garnets gemstones are given their own names, to help differentiate between them.

antique earrings in Bohemian garnet styleRed garnets come from the Almandine and Pyrope forms of garnet.  Even though Almandine is the most common garnet, it is usually opaque and really not fit for use in jewellery.  It is the, less common, transparent dark red forms of Almandine that are used as gemstones. A rose-red to violet variety of Pyrope is known as Rhodolite, and is a choice often made by jewellers seeking stones with rich colour and reflectivity to create pretty pieces.


Spessartite is an orange to orange-red form of Garnet, which has recently seen an increase in popularity, as people recognise the beauty and worth of coloured gemstones.  Grossular, the form of Garnet that has the greatest range of colours, has the important gem variety of glorious green Tsavorite.

Millennia ago, red garnets were used in the jewellery of Egypt’s Pharaohs and many have been found among the effects of those ancient Egyptian’s wealthy and important enough to be mummified and so pass into the afterlife with all their worldly goods intact.

A Bohemian style garnet ringCenturies later, red garnets were among the most widely traded gems. In the Middle Ages red garnet was favoured by both the clergy and the nobility.  In around 1500 a massive deposit of red garnet was discovered in Bohemia, a Kingdom which was later absorbed into the Czech Republic.

This discovery led to an explosion of goldsmiths and jewellers in the area specialising in a form of jewellery known as Bohemian garnet, where stones are packed closely together to create a dazzle of texture and pattern – a style which has as much charm today as it ever has, when designed by the right person.

The garnet is, of course, the birthstone for January and the gemstone associated with the second wedding anniversary.  For those who believe in the power of crystals, garnet is the one you need if you want to achieve a balance in your life, harness your inner strength and feel safe and protected.

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