Ask someone to name a beautiful red gemstone and you’ll likely hear about rubies, but if you’re talking to a true jewelry connoisseur, garnets will steal the spotlight. This luscious red gemstone has been used since the times of the ancient Egyptians in gorgeous garnet jewelry, talismans, charms, and royal decorations throughout history. So what exactly is garnet, and where does it come from?
How Garnet Got its Name
While many precious gemstones derive their name from their places of origin, garnet is uniquely named for its appearance. In latin, the word garantus translates to “like a seed” - and, as anyone who has ever enjoyed a pomegranate fruit before can attest, garnets closely resemble the translucent red arils, or juice-filled seeds, found inside. Over time, garantus became “garnet” to honor the stone’s close resemblance to the tart seeds of the pomegranate fruit. Additionally, in Middle English, the word “gernet” meant “dark red” - though it’s unclear whether the stone influenced the name, or vice-versa.
Garnet is the birthstone of January, as well as the associated zodiac sign of January, Aquarius. Because of its resemblance to the pomegranate fruit, it’s also entwined with the famous Greek myth of Hades and Persephone; the latter having become trapped in the underworld for half the year after eating six pomegranate arils. Garnet jewelry, such as garnet bracelets or garnet rings, were given to travelers as a talisman for a safe return, just as Persephone returned to her mother Demeter from the underworld each year.
Where Garnet is Found
One of the most breathtaking styles of garnet is the Bohemian garnet, prized by jewelers and collectors alike for its rich, red colors. The “bohemian” in the name is a nod to the once-region of Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic. While the political borders and official names may have shifted throughout history for these lands, this region remains the most popular area for mining, finishing, and setting garnets into beautiful garnet gemstone jewelry. Mined garnets that aren’t up to the task of becoming items like garnet earrings are also used in industrial applications here thanks to their incredible durability; garnet dust is used as an abraded surface finish in grinding and polishing tools, similar to diamonds.
Colors of Garnet
While garnets are closely linked with the beautiful translucent red named for the stone, they actually come in a surprising array of colors. Depending on the pressure, heat, and surrounding stone where they are found, they can be any hue from a deep red, to a soft pink, to a light green that rivals peridot. While each of these are, geologically speaking, also garnets, the red Bohemian garnet remains the arguable favorite when it comes to crafting garnet jewelry.
Whether you wear your garnet necklaces, rings, bracelets, or earrings as a fashion statement or for luck while travelling, you’re in good company: the Egyptians, the Romans, and even the Victorians all did so too. So, which style will become your modern-day garnet talisman?