January is the month that signifies the beginning of a new year. We set resolutions, view it as a fresh start, and look forward to the year ahead. The birthstone for this month is a special one - the garnet. This gem is also representative of the second year of marriage. There are many great pieces of jewelry you can find (or design!) that feature garnets. If you’re looking for a piece of garnet jewelry, learn more about this beautiful gemstone!
Where does the name come from?
So, what does “garnet” mean? It’s derived from a Latin word meaning “seedlike,” in reference to the pomegranate; garnets look like the bright red seeds you’d find inside a pomegranate. This fruit has been popular for thousands of years and is even featured in legends and mythology of ancient civilizations. Jewelry that incorporates garnets has been found dating back for several millenia.
History of the gemstone
Bohemia, which is the modern day Czech Republic, was where a large majority of garnets originated from starting in the 1500s and lasting into the 1800s. The industry of mining, cutting, and selling garnets was huge in the region and continues today, though garnets are found in many other parts of the world as well. These Bohemian garnets are still well-known and can be purchased in the Czech Republic. Bohemian garnets are often cut into small sizes and then set closely together to look like the pomegranate fruit they’re named after. Garnets became increasingly popular throughout the rest of Europe. They’ve been used to seal documents; in Ancient Rome, it was common to find garnet signet rings with elaborate carvings in the gemstone.
Garnet forms from a group of silicate materials that all share similar properties, but have different chemical compositions. You can find garnets in every color, with red being the most popular and blue being the rarest. You’ll find plenty of deep-red garnets, as well as those in shades that look a bit more pinkish. Different types of garnets have different levels of hardness, but you’ll find that they’re all between 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale.
Myths around the garnet
Garnets have a rich history and are surrounded by many beliefs and myths. During the Middle Ages, people believed that garnets could cure depression, alleviate disease, and protect against night terrors. In Hindu culture, the garnet is associated with female empowerment and the first chakra, implying feelings of security and stability. Many of the meanings also reference friendship, devotion, and compassion. They’re also considered a stone for travelers; a common myth is that a garnet lantern was used on Noah’s Ark to see at night.
Notable pieces of garnet jewelry
Ancient Egyptian pharaohs were often buried with elaborate pieces of garnet jewelry. Royal palaces and churches in Bohemia are decorated with garnet. One of the most well-known pieces of garnet jewelry is the antique pyrope hair comb. The hair comb features pyrope garnets, which are the reddest of garnets, that were mined in Bohemia and are rose cut, meaning they have a faceted top and flat bottom. This hair comb was created during the Victorian Era, but now resides in the Smithsonian Institute.
If you’re looking for something to celebrate a January birthday or anniversary, we have a variety of garnet pieces in stock here at Vanscoy, Maurer & Bash Diamond Jewelers in Lancaster, PA. If you’re looking for something specific and we don’t have it in our store, we can order or design it for you. Feel free to reach out with any questions; you can call or text us at 717-299-4283.