What are Garnets?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Garnets are a group of minerals that come in an array of colors. Most people are familiar with the almandite garnet, which is deep red in color. While almandite is common in jewelry, many do not realize that this is only one of over ten varieties mined throughout the world. There are also mixtures of varieties, including some color-changing types that are the only known garnets to come in blue tones.

Garnets are a cheaper alternative to rubies.
Garnets are a cheaper alternative to rubies.

Garnets are commonly composed of minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium, and aluminum. Presence of other minerals like chromium or titanium can significantly affect color. Garnets in any color have a hardness of 6.5-7.5 on the Mohs scale. Though beautiful, care must be taken with these stones, and wearers should probably remove garnet jewelry before engaging in household chores.

Since garnets are fairly common, they are an excellent choice for those watching their pocket books. With multiple colors to choose from, a good quality stone can be selected for virtually any jewelry requirement. Red and pink varieties with good clarity may often be purchased in five to ten carat sizes, with the average price at 20-40 US dollars (USD) per carat.

For the lover of garnets, the following is a listing of a few garnet varieties:

  • Grossular can be found in pink, green, orange or colorless hues. Most grossular garnets are found in Tanzania.
  • Hessonite is found in Sri Lanka and parts of Canada. It is orange to brown in color, with some stones resembling a topaz.
  • Malaya is found primarily in Tanzania and can vary in color from pink to orange to coral.
  • Pyrope is found in Europe and North America, and resembles the pigeon’s blood coloring of the finest rubies. Stones are usually small in size and are often no larger than two carats.
  • Rhodolite is mined in both Tanzania and North America. It is also deep purple red in color, although it may also have pinkish tones. It is thought to be a mix between pyrope and almandite.
  • Spessartite is a red-hued stone with primarily orange undertones. It is found throughout North America, though large stones are quite rare.
  • Tsavorite is highly prized with deep green tones. It is found in small amounts in Kenya and Tanzania. Large stones are quite rare and generally highly expensive.
  • Uvavorite is one of the most difficult garnets to find. It is light green and rarely can be collected in anything larger than a carat. Although collectors prize the color, it is not frequently used in jewelry.

Today, red garnets are the birthstone of January. Since garnets can be found in so many places, folklore concerning them is abundant. They are associated with healing, and some ancient cultures believed garnets could actually reduce inflammation. Garnets are thought to elevate mood and give the wearer strength and protection during troubled times. They also signify affection when exchanged between friends, and promise that those two friends will not be parted for long.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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