Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Garnet – January’s Birthstone

This first in a series of twelve short essays on birthstones is devoted to the Garnet, January’s Birthstone.


The Garnet is typically recognized by its deep, rusty-red color but there are actually over 29 known varieties of them. While they all have essentially the same cubic crystalline structure, the different types of Garnets vary in chemical makeup and other physical properties resulting in colors that range across the spectrum. While it’s true that the deep red variety is the most commonly occurring, the color of Garnet can range from earth tones to yellow, orange, red and even vibrant green, such as the brilliant Tsavorite. Because of these chemical and physical properties, the only color that Garnets are not available in is blue.


The mythology of the Garnet can be traced back to ancient Greece where it was believed that Garnets held many special powers. The Romans associated the Garnet with Mars, the god of war. Warriors throughout the ages believed that the Garnet could inflict mortal wounds on their enemies and also protect its bearer from illness and peril. And it is believed that Noah used a lantern made of Garnet to safely steer his ark through the darkness of night.

The name Garnet is derived from the name of the pomegranate fruit, the Latin term being “granatus”, meaning “seed”. Garnets resemble the seeds of a pomegranate and in nature are typically found in clusters, as are the pomegranate seeds.Garnets

Further reference to the pomegranate can be found in the Greek myth of Persephone, the maiden daughter of Zeus. The myth says that Persephone was abducted by Hades, ruler of the underworld. Zeus dispatched Hermes to return her, but by the time she was rescued, she had eaten the sweet seeds of the pomegranate, obligating her to spend the winter months with her new husband, Hades. Persephone’s return to Hades caused the winter to arrive for three months. In the spring, when Persephone rises up to be with her mother, the seasonal growth cycle of plants begins. This annual, eternal, devoted return is associated with deep love and so the gift of pomegranate seeds, or the Garnet, represents a gift of love.


Today, the Garnet still maintains its ancient lore and is used to celebrate the second wedding anniversary. It is also the birthstone for the month of January and is therefore a favorite of Aquarians and Capricorns. But the Garnet is an exceptional choice for year-round use by all. Bearing a Mohs’ Hardness rating of between 7 and 7.5, the Garnet is fairly hard and resistant to everyday wear and tear.

And though it is somewhat susceptible to impact fracture, the garnet lends itself well to use in Garnet rings, Garnet pendants and Garnet earrings, which also make very sensible, attractive and popular gifts.


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  2. I have had this fascination with birthstones for a very long time, and I do believe they have special significance for the person wearing them. It may or may not be mystical, but then again, I really like the idea of having some kind of symbol for every month. I even bought my pet a collar with his birthstone on it. Here's what I wrote about birthstones :)