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Spotlight on garnet birthstone jewellery for January

Guide to garnet birthstone jewellery for January


In the latest of our monthly series spotlighting antique birthstones, we look at garnet, the birthstone for January.

While January can feel long and dark following Christmas, and a bit gloomy, those celebrating a birthday this month can enjoy a pop of colour and warmth with their birthstone, the beautiful garnet. January’s birthstone since the 15th century, the garnet is also the birthstone for all Aquarians in the zodiac.

What is a garnet?

The semi-precious garnet is a multi-species mineral which is commonly thought to be only red in colour but can in fact be found in a wide spectrum of hues including green, orange, purple and blue. Often (wrongly) considered to be the poor man’s ruby, the garnet is a durable stone scoring 6.5-7.5 on the Mohs scale, which scores diamonds 10 and sapphires 9.

Where do garnets come from?

Garnets occur naturally all over the world, from Tanzania, Madagascar and India, to Canada, Brazil and Russia, with different types of garnet forming in different geographical regions.

What is the meaning of the garnet as a birthstone?

The name garnet is said to be derived from the Latin ‘granatum’ which means ‘seed’ and refers to its resemblance to the red seeds of a pomegranate fruit. Garnets have traditionally symbolised constancy, love and faith and is associated with protecting travellers by protecting them and giving direction to those who may have lost their way. Some believe that garnets will ward off nightmares and that it heals and energises the wearer. Pyrope garnets (see below) are believed to protect against anxiety attacks, and insecurity and will boost energy and motivation levels.

Famous garnet jewellery

Perhaps the most famous piece today is an antique hair comb made from Bohemian pyrope garnets, which are naturally deep red in colour and very striking. It has been on display at the Smithsonian Institute since 1937 when it was donated by Ales and Maria Herdlicka. Pyrope garnets are the deepest red of all and indeed the word pyrope is derived from the Greek for ‘fiery-eyed’. Fewer pyrope garnets are used in jewellery today, however, as there are limited sources of the stone left.

Caring for garnets

Garnets can scratch easily so take care when wearing your garnet jewellery and always remove rings when taking part in any sport. Garnet jewellery can be cleaned in the same way as diamond jewellery – using a soft toothbrush and a mild solution of warm water and soap, gently brush round the stones and the setting. Rinse well and dry with a soft, lint-free cloth.

Vintage garnet jewellery at Hemswell Antique Centres

While remains of garnet jewellery have been found which date back to the Bronze Age, and while we know that Ancient Egyptian and Roman civilisations favoured it, it was the Victorians who made it universally popular. Victorian pieces often mimic the link to pomegranates by featuring clusters of smaller gems in larger pieces, such as brooches and rings. The Hemswell dealers have a wide range of garnet birthstone jewellery available to browse in our four centres, with a small selection available to view online.

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