The Meaning and History of Garnet
Garnet is the birthstone
for January and the stone that celebrates the 2nd anniversary of marriage
. The name “garnet” comes from the Latin word “Garanatus,” meaning “seedlike,” in reference to a pomegranate. This reference makes sense as small garnets look like the bright red seeds you find inside in a pomegranate. The garnet has been a popular gem throughout history. Garnets were found as beads in a necklace worn by a young man in a grave that dates back to 3000 B.C. This is proof of the hardness and durability of the stone.
The King of Saxony is said to have had a garnet of over 465 carats. Plato had his portrait engraved on a garnet by a Roman engraver. Bohemia, now a part of Czechoslovakia, was once a tremendous source of garnet, and at one time, cutting, polishing, and mounting garnets was a very rich industry in that country. Many Bohemian castles and churches had magnificent interiors decorated with garnet. Bohemian garnets are famous even today, known for their small but beautiful stones set close to each other resembling a pomegranate. Garnet jewelry is still found in the Czech Republic, with the stones still arranged in the traditional, tightly joined way. This ensures that the attraction of the classical Garnet pieces is caused only by the beauty of its stones. The Anglo-Saxons
were also fond of garnets. Their jewelry was set with garnets mounted in many forms.
Garnets were highly popular in Europe, in 18th and 19th centuries. They were frequently used for jewelry in the Victorian times. In Old Spain, the pomegranate was a favorite, and as a result of this, so was the garnet. In Spanish astrology, the garnet once represented the sun. In ancient times, garnet was known as ”Carbuncle,” which relates to the color and refers to a boil or blister. This name was also applied to other red stones, but to the garnet in particular.
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary describes the garnet as “a brittle and more or less transparent red silicate
mineral that has a vitreous
luster, occurs in many crystals but also in massive forms and in grains, is found commonly in gneiss
and mica schist
, and is used as a semiprecious stone and as an abrasive.” Garnet is one of the most plentiful stones. There is hardly any other gem that unites such a broad spectrum of color and luster, as well as rarity and size of widely varying gemstones. For example, the precious green uvarovite garnet from the Urals, is an almost priceless gemstone due to the fact that it only forms in fairly large crystals.
Garnet is actually a group name for the silicate
, andradite, mozambique and uvarovite, so the garnet is a far more diverse gem than its name suggests. All of these garnet minerals share similar cubic crystal structure and chemical composition. Gem quality garnet occurs in many countries, and beautifully formed crystals have been prized for over 5000 years.
Throughout time, there have been many ancient traditions and legends about the garnet. In medieval times
, the stones were thought to cure depression, protect against bad dreams, and relieve diseases of the liver, as well as hemorrhages. According to legend, Noah used a finely cut, glowing garnet to illuminate the ark during those dark wet days and nights. Hebrew writers include the garnet as one of the twelve gems in Aaron’s breastplate. Christian tradition considered the blood-red garnet as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. The Koran
holds that the garnet illuminates the Fourth Heaven of the Moslems. The Greeks said it guarded children from drowning. It was also thought to be potent against poisons.
In Greek mythology, a pomegranate is referenced as a gift of love and is associated with eternity. Nowadays, Garnet remains as a gift of love and is traditionally given for the 19th anniversary of marriage. It may also be used as a gift for two-year and six-year anniversaries. Moreover, Garnet is symbolic of a quick return and separated love, since Hades had given a pomegranate to Persephone before she left him to ensure her speedy return. Therefore, Garnet may be given to a beloved before embarking on a trip, as it is believed to heal the broken bonds of lovers.
It has been said that a garnet engraved with the figure of a lion is an all around effective charm that will protect and preserve health, cure the wearer of all disease, bring him honors, and guard him from all the possible perils in traveling. It was also said to warn the wearer of approaching danger and was long ago carried as a protective talisman
. One writer wrote that if a garnet loses its luster and shine, it is a sure sign of coming disaster. There may be an affinity between garnets and the warrior tradition. It is recorded that garnets have been used as pellets by a group of native people of India
, shot from bows. The tribal belief was that the stone would inflict wounds, which would be particularly bloody.
The history of garnet’s ability to bring about transformation is found in many books. Thelma Isaacs writes that “garnets used for healing were usually almandine
, the red and purple-red transparent minerals. They were thought to counter melancholy and act as a heart stimulant. In ancient times, there were some who believed that gazing at a red garnet could lead to passion, anger, and even apoplexy.” Barbara Walker believes that “garnet blood magic was left over from ancient ideas of the life-giving powers of uterine blood.” Garnet was named from granatum, the pomegranate, a red-jeweled womb symbol ever since the matriarchal age. Because of these ancient connections with feminine life force, it was sometimes thought that only women should wear garnets.
Mystical Powers of Garnet
*The information provided here is for entertainment and reference purposes only. It is based on centuries of folklore, most of which came about before the age of modern medicine. It is not meant as actual medical information. For advice about any of the illnesses listed, please visit a qualified physician.
There are countless beliefs regarding the various benefits of wearing a garnet to promote good health. In ancient and medieval times, the symbolism of color played a very important part in recommending the use of particular stones for special diseases. In the case of red stones, they were thought to be remedies for hemorrhages of all kinds, as well as for inflammatory diseases. Garnets were worn to enhance bodily strength, endurance and vigor. It was widely believed to be extremely beneficial to wear a garnet when one had to exert oneself. Garnet was also though to relieve skin conditions and regulate the heart and blood. It was thought to be healing for either gender. For men, it keeps the reproductive system healthy. For women, it promotes hormonal balance and is said to reduce swelling. Garnet has long believed to cure heart palpitations, lung diseases, and various diseases of the blood. Traditional folklore creates a strong link between the red garnet and blood. It is believed that a garnet tones the spleen, promotes health throughout the circulatory system and enhances the body’s production of healthy hemoglobin. It stimulates metabolism, treats spinal and cellular disorders, purifies and reenergizes the blood, heart and lungs, and regenerates DNA. It also assists the assimilation of minerals and vitamins.
There are many beliefs in the power garnet has over the not just physical health, but mental health as well. Garnet’s virtues have been long believed to include passion, true friendship, fidelity, success, self-esteem, loyalty, devotion, energy, faith, consistency, and truth. The stone also sharpens your perception of yourself and other people. Long ago, garnets were claimed to help the wearer resist melancholy and warn off evil spirits, especially spirits of the night, which were referred to as demons and night phantoms. Today we might interpret this as a stone that can ward off nightmares. Garnet is also said to inspire contemplation and truthfulness, and offers its wearer the power to protect their standing and possessions. The garnet is also an ancient symbol of friendship. In the past, garnets have been exchanged between parting friends to symbolize their affection and to ensure that they meet again. In some circles of belief, it is said that a garnet’s magic cannot be accessed unless the stone has been cut and polished.
Garnet has been believed to be extremely beneficial in the realm of business as well. The stone causes people to be attracted to the wearer, which aids in business, as well as in personal success. It is especially beneficial to those people whose business is people-oriented. The stone is an ideal choice for people who are entering new realms, for example, people who are moving to a new city. Furthermore, the garnet aids in giving strength to the business minded person. Any sort of crisis is turned into challenge under the garnet’s influence.
Perhaps the strongest virtue of the garnet, is its ability to help one overcome depression. The stone has been known to dissolve ingrained behavior patterns that are no longer positive, and bypasses resistance or self-induced unconscious sabotage. It aids in letting go of useless or old ideas. The stone revitalizes, purifies and balances energy, bringing serenity or passionate as appropriate. It removes inhibitions, taboos, anger and discord. It alleviates emotional disharmony, brings on a calming influence, and protects the wearer from being affected by the unwanted energy of others. It strengthens the survival instinct in a crisis, or in extremely traumatic situations, bringing courage and hope where it seems like there is no way out. All in all, the stone keeps depression at bay. It promotes self-confidence and allows one’s inner spirit to radiate.
Garnet also has many virtues when it comes to love and sex as there is a strong aspect of sexual and sensual energy in garnets. The stone is said to balance the sex drive. It supposedly aids in sexual potency and fertility, brings out sexual attraction and frees ones sensual side to release passion and love. Garnet moves a couple deeper into a passionate and sensual exploration of sexual magic. The stone inspires commitment, monogamous and stable marriage, and promises one’s love, devotion, and fidelity with surety. It can also aid in finding true lovers.
Physical Properties and Science of Garnet
Garnet is quite a durable stone, rating a 7 to 7.5 on the hardness scale
. As mentioned earlier, a necklace made of garnets was found on a young man in a grave, dating back to 3000 BC, which is proof of the stone’s durability. Garnet is actually the name for a family of ten different gems with similar chemical structure that spans a variety of colors, from red to orange to yellow, green, brown, violet, pink, or even black. The main differences between the stones lie in slight variations of color, density, and refractive index.
Garnet is best known in a deep red variety but is commonly found in orangy brown and wine red shades. A flawless, clear green garnet (called a demantoid), is one of the most beautiful and expensive gems in existence. Demantoids are softer than other types of garnets. A green garnet of over five carats is more rare than an emerald
in the same size. The fire, or sparkle, of such a garnet is even higher than that of a diamond
, however the brilliance is masked by the color, so a white diamond
shows more fire to the eye. A large clear garnet is hard to find. The larger gems, as with other gemstones, are usually flawed, cracked or of poor color.
Garnet is one of the few untreated gems. It is available in many colors and offers great versatility. Depending on the variety, quality and size of a garnet, one can pay anywhere from $40 to $5000 per carat. Garnet can also be mistaken for other, usually more expensive gems. The red garnet may be mistaken for a ruby
, while the yellow type may be mistaken for precious topaz
and the green garnet may be mistaken for an emerald
Today, the Mozambique variety of garnet is quite popular. Originating in the East African nation they are named after, Mozambique garnets are known for their high quality and wonderfully warm, red colors. Mozambique garnet is a mixture of pyrope
garnet, similar in color to rhodolite garnet, but slightly more red, and darker.
Garnets are relatively common in highly metamorphic and some igneous rocks. They form under extremely high temperatures and pressure. Geologists can actually use garnets as an indication of the temperatures and pressures at which the rock (where the garnets were found) was formed. The garnet occurs in generous quantities in certain parts of the world, even in small sand particles on many beaches, as well as in rock formations. Garnets are found in Africa, India
, South America, Madagascar, Pakistan, and the United States.
You can clean your garnet with warm soapy water and a soft brush. Always make sure you rinse the stone well after washing it. Ultrasonic treatments may also be used for any garnets except the demantoid variety. Do not steam clean your garnet. As with other stones, one should take care of their garnet and protect it from sharp blows, harsh temperatures and chemicals.