Happy New Year! We are starting this year with the garnet. Garnets are the birthstone of January and are one of my favourite gemstones, particularly the almandine garnet which is a dark red colour with a touch of purple. Usually presented as a cabochon in antique jewellery, it was also likely to be foiled and have a closed back, all with the aim of deepening the colour of the stone. Another dark red garnet used a lot in antique jewellery is the pyrope. It has become associated with Bohemian garnet jewellery. The rhodalite garnet, which is a rose pink or red with a pink overtone, is not seen all that often in antique jewellery.

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. Despite the link to pomegranate seeds, the garnet comes in other colours as well – orange red brown, brown red, black and green.

I have chosen some pieces of garnet jewellery to celebrate this beautiful gemstone

The first piece is an early 19th century pendant/brooch set with lovely almandine garnet cabochons, foiled and enclosed at the back, surrounded by cannetille gold work. It is in a fairly delicate condition but is a beautiful piece.

Early 18th century garnet and gold brooch/pendant

The second piece is a lovely Georgian eye-shaped brooch from around 1800. It has a central compartment containing woven hair. The surround of the brooch is comprised of garnets (symbolising fidelity and virtue) and half pearls (symbolizing modest loveliness).

Eye-shaped brooches are called ‘shuttle’ brooches and were only produced between 1790 to 1800. Although it has contains hair in the centre compartment, this piece is more likely a sentimental brooch, representing love and friendship, rather than one used for mourning.

Georgian ‘shuttle’ memorial brooch with garnets and half pearls (in Navette on Ruby Lane)

The third piece below is a Victorian five strand choker made up of facetted garnets. It has a front clasp in 15ct gold, set with three garnets. It sits beautifully around the neck.

Victorian garnet collar with gold and garnet clasp (at Camberwell Antique Centre)

They make a lovely start to 2021.