Is garnet a gemstone or a family of minerals? There are a lot of questions about the garnet stone and for a good reason! If you’ve ever taken stock of this brilliant-hued mineral family, you most likely found red garnet. But did you know that garnet stones come in a spectrum of vivid colors?
Garnet gems aren’t just one type of gemstone, but a group of similar stones from one mineral family. They come in all sorts of colors, including red, yellow, orange, purple, pink, green, gray, brown, and black. There are even color-changing varieties!
Despite this myriad of rainbow colors, garnet is most known for its rich crimson color with a dark purple tinge. When gemologists, jewelers, and buyers refer to garnet, they’re alluding to the dark red variety. However, if we broaden the lens, we’ll find that garnet is anything but singular in color and composition.
So, what does garnet mean spiritually, and on that note, what is garnet used for, anyway?
In this guide, we’re covering all the pertinent information about this jewel family, from origins to meaning to value. Let’s dive in!
Garnet stones have unmatched diversity in the gem world. While sapphires are renowned for their broad color wheel, they are one mineral species in various colors. Conversely, garnets are equally diverse as sapphires but vary in composition due to trace mineral elements like iron and almandine. So, what is garnet?
Garnet is the official January birthstone, which we’ll expand on later. First, we need to examine the stone’s crystal structure and composition.
Garnet isn’t a gemstone, but a gem family composed of multiple species under the garnet family banner. While all the gems in the family share a crystal structure, their composition and characteristics vary.
Garnet stones have an isometric crystal structure and are found in different varieties. However, almost all of them are a blend of several species within the family, rather than pure garnet.
While the blends vary, the crystal structure is the same across all species. So, what distinguishes one gem from the next? The mixture of mineral elements dictates each stone’s color and composition.
So, how many garnet species and varieties are there?
Most gem-quality garnet stones are a blend of two or more species. With a multitude of species within this gem family, the blending options are vast. There are 15 minerals in the garnet family, but only six of them produce gem-quality material.
From these six minerals, subcategories emerge. These varieties all have the same crystal structure with differing elements. Garnet species fall into two categories: pyralspites and ugrandites.
Pyrope: Made from magnesium aluminum silicate, these dark red gems give rubies a run for their money in beauty and vibrance. Click here to read more about Pyrope Garnet.
Almandine: You’ll likely come across this variety made from iron aluminum silicate, as almandine is a widespread species used to produce gems in an array of colors.
Spessartite: A magnesium aluminum silicate like pyrope, these rare, bright orange gemstones are popularly seen in Mandarin garnets. Click here to read more about Spessartite Garnet.
Uvarovite: A calcium chromium silicate, these emerald-green stones are the rarest garnet available and extremely hard to come by. If you find one, you might want to swoop it up before someone else does!
Grossular: This calcium aluminum silicate is a vibrant, light to medium toned species available in every color but blue, making it an optimal choice for jewelry gemstones. Click here to learn more about Grossular Garnet.
Andradite: These rare calcium iron silicates exhibit high dispersion (fiery rainbow colors) and brilliance rivaling diamonds.
Although we’ve only mentioned six varieties, these can all be blended to produce a spectrum of colors. While you won’t find pure garnet gemstones, you will find a vast color wheel built from blending these species.
There is one rule: pyralites and ugrandites can’t mix. Other than that, you can produce a wide range by mixing within each subcategory. The following list reflects the hybrids created by mixing and blending garnet species.
Demantoid: A vitreous yellow-green variety with a highly-desired presence of fibrous, wavy inclusions. Click here to learn more about Demantoid Garnet.
Hessonite: This cinnamon-hued gem evokes a “whiskey in water” look, where the wavy, liquid amber hues seem to move and dance in the light. Stunning! Click here to learn more about Hessonite Garnet.
Malaya: A blend of spessartite and pyrope that’s available in warm hues like orange-pink, red-orange, and yellow-orange, which can occasionally shift colors in certain lights!
Rhodolite: Blending almandine and pyrope creates a rich, lustrous purple jewel ranging from bright purple to pomegranate!
Umbalite: A hot pink to rich purple variety from Umba Valley, Tanzania, that’s a sister stone of the Rhodolite and Malaya blends.
Tsavorite: A grossular variety in emerald green that’s highly sought after and thus, more expensive.
Pyrope-spessartite (color-changing): These color-shifting stones were discovered in the late 90s and can transform from blue to red and vice versa under artificial light. A popular example is Imperial garnet, which shifts from orange to pink.
Hydrogrossular: An opaque variety in blueish green, white, gray, and pink that’s often debated as to whether it belongs in the family — kind of like a pesky cousin or sibling.
Given all of the species and blends, is there one true garnet color?
Thanks to the process of blending elements and minerals, garnet stones come in a wide variety of colors! For instance, almandine contains iron aluminum silicate, which is most often dark red. Spessartite is manganese aluminum silicate, which comes in red, orange, and black.
The most incredible quality of these gems is that each garnet variety comes exclusively in one color. So, while you might love the rich green hue of Tsavorite, someone else might swoon over rhodolite’s brilliant purple color.
Simply put: garnet is every color, depending on the variety.
We’ve learned a lot about the composition, blending, and chemical properties of garnet, but what about the gem’s meaning, uses, and benefits?
For such a diverse stone, it’s only fitting that garnet’s history, symbolism, and origins are equally rich!
The stone’s name comes from the Latin granatum, which means seed. While we now know that garnets come in different colors and species, the ancient Greeks associated the gem’s reddish-purple color with pomegranate seeds, a symbol for passion and everlasting love.
Over time, wandering trade smiths and travelers wore the glimmering gems to light their path and protect them as they endeavored through treacherous moonlit roads.
Noblemen wore garnet signet rings to stamp their signatures, and the first Anglo-Saxons adorned their weaponry in them to strengthen their warrior skills.
If we trace the gem through history, the folklore always depicts garnet as a blood-red gem, despite its modern color variations. Even royal figures dropped the stones into their wine glasses to protect themselves from poison — the choice murder weapon of the Middle Ages.
Used as both a protective amulet and decorative jewelry ornament, garnet colors history in sparkling red.
Today, we know that these various gemstones are sourced from geological sites worldwide. What rock is garnet found in? They form in the igneous and metamorphic rocks of the earth’s crust under high heat and pressure.
These geological conditions create a prime breeding ground for garnet stones, which sprout up in deposits around the globe, most concentrated in the following regions:
And that covers all of garnet’s logistics, but what about the stone’s more profound, spiritual meaning?
Garnets represent fertility, feminine energy, strength, and safety. Because of their association with the lower Chakras (Root, Sacral, and Solar Plexus), garnets are often used as chakra healing stones.
By wearing garnet jewelry, meditating with the stones, or creating a crystal grid, people can benefit from the gem’s natural energies. Bringing intentions to specific crystals is a way to direct the natural currents vibrating from the stone toward particular ailments.
But even in their most basic form, garnet stones are simply stunning, making them attractive fashion accessories! If you’ve ever shopped for gemstone jewelry, you’ve found no shortage of garnet designs, thanks to the jewel’s immense variety.
What is the garnet stone good for? Below, we’ll explore some of the most common uses and benefits of this intriguing gemstone.
Many benefit from the healing properties of garnet, which offer physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. For example, garnet can boost confidence, protect you from negative energy, and cleanse the chakras.
Wearing garnet jewelry is an excellent way to carry the stone’s powers with you on the go.
Like the gem’s endless color options, so too are garnet jewelry designs! These gems are a desirable choice for earrings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets because of their wide availability and budget-friendly price range.
Are you wondering how to wear garnet gemstones? Not only will this stylish accessory add color to your life, but wearing the stone will harness the gem’s powers as you go throughout your day.
If your birthday is in January, you’re in luck because garnet is your birthstone! Why the hype? Well, few gemstones offer such variety and personalization. Because garnet comes in every color, you can choose to wear your favorite color as your birthstone.
What does the garnet birthstone symbolize?
We briefly alluded to garnet’s protective properties. Well, garnet will keep you safe while bringing good fortune, love, and loyalty into your life. In addition to being the January birthstone, garnet is also the traditional 2nd and 18th wedding anniversary gift.
So if you’ve got an important date coming up on your calendar, why not surprise your loved one with a beautiful garnet gemstone?
You might be wondering: is garnet expensive? Sticking to the theme of this dynamic gem, the answer isn’t black and white. Ultimately, a garnet stone’s price depends on the variety and species. Of course, specific blends will fetch higher prices, depending on their availability.
For example, a demantoid will fetch a higher price than an almandine because the former is rarer than the latter.
Garnet prices range from $500 per carat to $10,000 for the most prestigious varieties. So, ultimately, you’ve got range to work with, which is always excellent when buying gemstones!
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of options with garnet, meaning you can easily find budget-friendly garnet stones and jewelry at a great price.
We’ve covered a lot, but one thing’s for sure: garnet is anything but one-note. Just when we think we’ve seen it all with this vibrant gemstone, a discovery emerges. In the last half-century alone, new blends have surfaced, and it’s reasonable to expect more to follow.
That’s the exciting aspect of gemology: you can mine the earth in a quest for a specific gem, and on the way, you’re sure to stumble on a hidden treasure.
So long as the earth remains geologically diverse, garnet variations will continue to surface. While garnets share an isometric chemical system and crystalline structure, elemental nuances create new hybrids that mesmerize the jewelry market.
What does that mean for you? That there’s a garnet gemstone for everyone out there! If you love purple, rhodolite makes for stunning earring studs. Is your birthday in January? Why not go traditional with a deep red pyrope ring? Or, throw tradition to the wind and opt for an elegant demantoid necklace pendant.
Or, buy loose garnet stones and customize your jewelry designs to reflect your unique style and taste!
Garnets continue to allure and evolve with every decade. That’s good news for gemstone lovers! And while the stone isn’t pure like diamonds or sapphires, it’s perhaps the most diverse, customizable jewel in the world. And who can resist that?
Now all that’s left to do is decide which variety is right for you!
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