Continuing on from our monthly birthstone blog series, the garnet is the stone associated with people born in January.
Garnets come in a range of colours, including the rare blue garnet. However, the most well-known is the dark, rich red colour of the garnet. The word is thought to have originated from the Middle English word for dark red, which is gernet, while the Latin granatus means grain or seed, is thought to have referenced the pomegranate seed.
Medieval jewellers would set the red stone in rings, brooches, necklaces and scabbards to protect a sword’s blade as the stone was thought of for its protective properties, and would be worn by kings and warriors, particularly before a battle. The deep colour is striking against yellow gold, which has earned the gemstone the name of fire coal. Prized by the Ancient Greeks and the Romans, a garnet signet ring was used to seal official documents, and was thought by clergy to represent Christ’s blood.
Some ancient sources thought the garnet was a carbuncle, a cabochon-cut stone in blood red. Domed in appearance, these carbuncles seemed to shine as if there was a light within. According to Jewish beliefs, Noah brought a red gem into the ark, to distinguish between day and night.
The garnet is a hard stone and rarely needs any treatment. It is widely available and mined in all parts of the world, which makes it a relatively low-cost and accessible gemstone. In addition to being set in yellow gold for a flattering piece of jewellery, which has been treasured by many civilizations for thousands of years, the red stone is more popularly set in silver, platinum, white or rose gold for a unique treasured item, perhaps as a brooch or a statement necklace. The garnet can be given as a second wedding anniversary gemstone.