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About Minerals

Birthstones of January

Garnets have been treasured for centuries, having been found in the ruins of ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, and mentioned in among the birthstones in the Bible. The word "garnet" is thought to come from either the Middle English word gernet meaning 'dark red', the Latin granatus ("grain"), or pomum granatum ("pomegranate"), a fruit with red seed-containing arils similar in shape, size, and color to some garnet crystals.

Garnet is prized both as a gemstone and for its use as an abrasive in sandblasting and sandpapers for fine wood finishes. Mixed with very high pressure water, garnet is used to cut steel and other materials in water jets.

Garnets display the greatest variety of color of any mineral and a few even exhibit a color change phenomenon when viewed in natural and incandescent light. Until the late 1990s - when a discovery was made in Bekily, Madagascar - garnet was said to occur in every color except blue.

Common Species

Almandine - The most common and frequently used gem. Deep, dark, rich red to purplish red to orange red (the more valuable. Almandines are less orange and brown in color). Also known as carbuncle, from the Latin word meaning "live coal" or burning charcoal



Pyrope - Deep, dark, rich red to slightly purple red. The only garnet that is always a shade of red, it is often inclusion free and is likely the most famous variety. Pure pyrope is extremely rare and would be colorless (it is allochromatic). The US produces a highly saturated dark red almandine/pyrope garnet known commercially as Rhodolite.



Spessartite - Medium orange to reddish orange. Uncommon and less well known. Gem quality specimens are not often found, although cabochons may be cut from it.





Demantoid Andradite - Medium green to slightly yellowish green. Rare and valuable, it is sought after by gem collectors.





Topazolite - Golden to greenish-yellow.





Melanite - black. Once was used as mourning jewelry and in inlay work.




Grossular Tsavorite - Medium, intense green to slightly yellowish green. Rare and valuable.




Hessonite - Varies from a brilliant yellow to yellowish brown.





Essonite - Brown or yellowish-brown. Also known as Cinnamon Stone.





Uvarovite - Bright green. Occurs in fine crystal clusters. This form is sometimes referred to as drusy because of the tiny crystals. Occasionally this rare garnet will be faceted into a gem for a collector, but usually, if it is big enough for that it becomes a mineral specimen instead.




Garnets were historically thought to be able to stop bleeding, cure blood disorders and infections, protect against poison, depression and impure thoughts, and provide prosperity.

In Kashmir in 1892, the Hunzas used garnet bullets to fight the British, in the belief that garnets were deadlier than lead.

From The Council Reporter, January, 2013 (Washington Mineral Council)