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January Birthstone: Garnet Beads
Beautiful garnet stones are the official birthstone for January. Although the garnet is most often associated with the deep pomegranate red of Pyrope Garnet, they are mined in a variety of colors, from reds and oranges to vibrant greens.
Despite this, the word garnet is rooted in the Latin term “granatum,” which means seed, and the 14th Century Middle English word “gernet,” which translates to “dark red.” It is easy to see how the name was derived, as typical garnet stones are very similar to the deep red seeds of the pomegranate fruit in both color and shape.
However, the term garnet does not refer to a single mineral, but a group of them. Garnet minerals all exhibit similar crystal forms and physical composition but vary in their actual chemical composition. This is why they are available in such a vast range of colors.
History of the Garnet
Garnet stones have a long history of use as decorative and ceremonial stones by Egyptians, and the earliest found pieces date to 3100 B.C. Early Egyptians used the precious stone to adorn their jewelry, homes and tombs.
Like most gemstones, the garnet stone was historically considered to possess various powers. The red color gave rise to its association with blood and battle, and it represented the notion of victory in dangerous pursuits.
Because of its association with protection and victory, garnets were used as talismans by Roman crusaders and warriors in ancient times. Those who used these talismans believed the power of the garnet stone would keep them safe from death and injury.
It was also associated with medicinal purposes because of its deep red color. Garnets were placed near or on injuries throughout Medieval times because many believed the stone promoted the healing process and stopped bleeding.
Other traits of the stone included protection for travelers, protection against poison and even the ability to rid the wearer of bad dreams.
Because of the mystical powers they hold, garnets have been a popular gift across various cultures for many centuries.
Origin and Mining
Garnet minerals are found and mined all over the world, and different species of the stone are found in the various locations across the globe. The most recent species discovered in the 1990s is the beautiful blue Madagascar garnet.
Other species can be found in Brazil, Wyoming, Russia, Greece, Sri Lanka, India and Central Europe.
The deep red Czech Bohemian garnet, large deposits of which were discovered in the 16th century in Czechoslovakia, remains one of the most common origins of the stone.
Because it varies so drastically in color, garnet stones are often confused with other gem types. The stone itself must be identified by other means, including its occurrence in metamorphic rock, its 6.5-7.5 hardness on the Mohs Scale and its crystal structure.
Garnets also vary significantly in terms of size. The smallest garnets found are tiny slivers of the gem, and the largest can grow to the size of an apple.
Types and Colors
There are more than 20 varieties of garnet species, but the six main species are pyrope, almandite, spessartite, grossularite, andradite and uvarovite. Because of this variation in species, there is also a significant variation in the colors of garnet stones.
Garnet stones occur naturally in every color and are even found in colorless varieties and collections that change their color according to the lighting. Some color-change garnets can appear blue in natural lighting and change to burgundy when exposed to incandescent light.
The most commonly occurring color is a range of reds, from russet reds to deep, nearly purple burgundies. Red garnets usually belong to the pyrope and almandite species. The rarest garnets are those found in the green and blue shades that are typical of the tsavorite and demantoid garnet varieties.
Symbolism and Energy
The symbolism of garnets today is still largely based on mythology. In Greek mythology, Hades gifted pomegranate seeds to Persephone as a token of safety before she traveled, and garnets now symbolize a safe return for travelers and a speedy return for those traveling from home.
Because of their typical red color, garnets are also associated with love and sensuality. It is said to incite passion and love but also aid in obtaining emotional balance for the wearer.
Finally, the garnet stone is also linked to heart and blood health. Used as a healing stone, it is believed to be anti-inflammatory and stop hemorrhaging.
Garnet stones are distinctly strong and resistant to tarnishing or breakage, which, coupled with their striking colors, make them a popular choice for use in jewelry. Because of their already opulent coloring, garnets are typically paired with simple sterling silver settings.
The garnet gemstone makes an excellent gift for anyone with a January birthday, and its association with protection and love makes it the perfect token of goodwill going into the new year. Garnet is also the official stone that is gifted for second anniversaries.
Garnet stones have been prized for centuries for their beautiful coloring and mystical powers. No matter how you choose to use or wear them, garnets make an excellent addition to your crystal or jewelry collection in January and all year long.