Garnet jewelry is readily available in a wide array of colors and designs, and the abundance of garnet gemstones in the marketplace makes it an affordable luxury. Garnets have been used in jewelry since ancient times, and were thought to be powerful talismans that protected the wearer from evil and illuminated the darkness. Biblical accounts have said that Noah used a lantern made of garnets to help steer his Ark through the darkness.
Garnets are a fairly hard gemstone, usually a 7 -7.5 on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the hardest). This makes garnet a good choice for jewelry since it resists scratches and chipping. And garnet gemstones are not usually treated or enhanced in any way, allowing for a more durable, natural stone that will keep its color and beauty in any jewelry piece.
Today garnets are found all over the world, but certain regions produce garnets whose color or physical properties are common or specific only to that area. As with any gemstone, the price of garnet is reflected in its beauty and rarity. Many different trade names have evolved and are used in the jewelry industry to describe the different colors and varieties of garnets.
Common Names for Garnets
- Hessonite or Cinnamon Stone – is usually a rich cinnamon brown to pinkish brown, although it can also show some shades of orange. Hessonite is found in Sri Lanka, Brazil, and California, US.
- Tsavorite – is a bright green to dark green garnet sometimes used or mistaken for emerald, found in Tanzania and Kenya, Africa. Since at least 85% of mined gems are less than one carat in size, this gem can command higher prices for the rare, larger stones. When set in jewelry, it’s hard to tell the difference between tsavorite and an expensive emerald.
- Spessartite – is a trade name that covers garnets with orange hues; from pale yellow-orange, to bright reddish orange, and prices vary depending on the saturation of color. Originally found and named in Bavaria, spessartite has since been found in many parts of the world, including the US.
- Demantoid – is a rich, vibrant green garnet variety originally found in the Ural Mountains of Russia. Demantoid garnets have a brilliance and fire comparable to diamonds, along with a ‘horsetail inclusion’ within the gem itself, making this a truly unique stone. The rarity and physical properties of this beautiful garnet usually translates into a very expensive piece of jewelry. Recently a small vein was found in Namibia, but the gemstones from that region do not have the trademark horsetail inclusion, making it a more affordable alternative to the true Russian Demantoid garnet.
- Rhodolite – is a trade name meaning ‘rose-like’ in Greek. This garnet is light pink to reddish-pink, and is found primarily in North Carolina, US. The intense color and lack of inclusions found in stones from this area help make rhodolite a favorite for use in feminine jewelry.
- Masai Blue – is a blue garnet recently found in Tanzania in the 1990’s. The color blue will generally command higher prices due to its scarcity in the marketplace, but recent finds of blue garnet in the US, Russia, Kenya, and Turkey have brought the price down slightly. Blue garnet is sometimes found to have color-changing properties, turning slightly purple in incandescent light.
Along with the various color choices, garnets can be cut into many different shapes and are set into all types of jewelry. Jewelry prices range from very affordable to very expensive for the rarer varieties of garnets.