Garnets are the birthstone of January. Traditionally, garnets are associated with devotion to one’s family and to strong friendships. They are a beautiful family of gemstone, quite complex, with some of the species having a different chemical composition but still able to be classed as a garnet. The word garnet comes from the 14th‑century Middle English word gernet, meaning ‘dark red’ which in turn is derived from the Latin word granatus, from granum (‘grain, seed’), believed to be associated with the pomegranate which has red seeds. Gem quality garnets come in dark purple red (almandine), deep red (pyrope), purple red or rose pink (rhodolite), orange red brown (spessarite), brown red (hessonite), black (melanite) and green (tsavolite and demantoid). They are quite hard stones (6.5-7.5 on the Mohs scale) so can be used for rings and other jewellery.
The best known garnets are the dark red almandine and the pyrope. The almandine garnet was usually presented as a cabochon. In antique jewellery, the cabochon is often hollowed at the back, foiled and enclosed, thus enhancing the deep red of the stone. The cabochon was often described as a carbuncle. The pyrope garnet was the stone used in Bohemian garnet jewellery.
I have chosen some pieces of garnet jewellery to celebrate January.
The first is this lovely 18ct gold bracelet from the early Victorian period. The bracelet is comprised of a central piece with an engraved surround set with a almandine garnet cabochon. The band is made up of graduated round engraved discs. At the back of the cabochon is a glazed panel with woven hair. A lovely sentimental piece.
Next is the gorgeous Victorian cabochon garnet pendant hanging from a diamond set bow and finished with a diamond set tassel.
Then there is this typical example of Victorian Bohemian garnet jewellery. This pendant is set in 9ct gold and contains rose cut pyrope garnets.
Then there are these gorgeous lizard earrings. Set with 208 faceted tsavorite garnets and 4 diamonds for their eyes, these are little treasures. They can be dated because of the tsavorite garnets. These gemstones were first discovered in 1967 in Tanzania. In 1971, deposits were found in Kenya and in 1974, Tiffany and Co began to use and market the stones, calling it ‘tsavorite’ after the Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. The only locations in which the stone has been found are Kenya, Tanzania, and Madagascar, with mall deposits in Pakistan and Antarctica. This means that the earrings had to have been made after the mid-1970s.