Those born in January are fortunate to have the beautiful and diverse colors of garnet as their birthstone. Garnets are commonly most recognizable red but also come in an extraordinary range of other beautiful colors, including purple, green, orange and vibrant yellow. There are even garnets that change color from purple to blue in different light settings. It is said that true value of the garnet birthstone is its power to bring the wearer good health, wealth and happiness.
The name “garnet” originates from the medieval Latin granatus, meaning “pomegranate,” in reference to the similarity of the red color. Bracelets studded with red garnets adorned the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Signet rings in ancient Roman times featured garnet intaglios that were used to stamp the wax that secured important documents. The clergy and nobility of the Middle Ages had a preference for red garnets.
Garnet is actually a group of several minerals. Five of these – pyrope, almandine, spessartine, grossular and andradite – are important as gems. Pyrope and almandine range from purple to red. Spessartine also known as (Mandarine Garnets) are found in exciting oranges and yellows, while andradite is mostly yellow to green (the gem variety demantoid). Grossular may have the widest range, from colorless through yellow to reddish orange and orangy red, as well as a strong vibrant green called tsavorite. Tsavorites are a vibrant green color. The Smithsonian has in collection one antique pyrope hair comb.
Garnets come from many different regions and countries. Bohemia was the primary source of the red pyrope garnets so popular during Victorian times. In 19th century Russia, green demantoid garnets from the Ural Mountains were prized by the Russian royal family and used by the great jeweler Fabergé (1846–1920). Today, the African continent supplies much of the world’s garnet. Namibia is now producing demantoids, and most of the bright green tsavorites in the market come from Kenya, Tanzania and Madagascar. Namibia and Tanzania are also key sources of the rich orange-to-yellow spessartine garnets. For many years, Southern California’s Little Three mining area was known for producing this spellbinding gem, The birthstone for January is also found in Myanmar, Brazil, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, among other countries.
The different types of garnet range between 6.5 and 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This means that this birthstone is more susceptible to damage than rubies, sapphires and diamonds. If you let it rub against harder gems – again, think diamonds, rubies and sapphires – it can be scratched. And in turn garnet can scratch softer gems, such as opals or pearls.
Most garnets are not treated. To clean garnets use a soft brush with warm soapy water. Ultrasonic cleaners are usually safe, except for stones that have fractures or have been fracture filled. Steam cleaning is not recommended.
Kitsinian Jewelers is located on McBean Pkwy in Valencia, California at the Promenade at Town Center in Santa Clarita.