Garnets are the birthstone of January and are one of my favourite gemstones. 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. We usually think of it as only being a deep red gem but it does come in many shades of red. The almandine garnet is a dark purple red, the pyrope is a deep red, while the rhodolite is a purple red or rose pink.
The garnet comes in other colours as well. The spessarite is an orange red brown colour, the hessonite is a brown red, while melanite is black. There are also green garnets, tsavolite and demantoid.
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 this beautiful gemstone. The first is this beautiful Victorian garnet pendant, set with diamonds in a floriate design. The back has a locket for a lock of hair or a photo. The garnet is a large cabochon, measuring 2 inches long.
Next is this lovely Roman garnet intaglio which has been set into an 18ct ring around the early 1920s.
Below is a boxed gold knot brooch, with a hanging pendant. Both the brooch and pendant are set with foiled garnet cabochons.
The final garnet set item is a Georgian mourning ring. The ring comprises a central foiled backed cabochon garnet with a border of black garnets. The band is plain, broad at the shoulders and tapering at the base.
The gold has been tested as 15ct. The back is plain with an inscription under the bezel which says: ‘John Honeyman ob. Feb 10th 1814 ob. 3 ½ years’. How sad.