The word 'Garnet' originates from Latin 'granatus', which translates to 'rounded seed' or 'grain'. The inside of a pomegranate is the inspiration for the name, as many red garnet types closely resemble the jewelled seeds of this exotic fruit.
Garnet is one of the earliest documented gemstones, prized across cultures with symbolism and lore that steeps back throughout history. The ancient Egyptians used Garnet in their talismans with examples dating back to 1887 BC found in tombs. The ancient Romans and Greeks set Garnet in their jewellery, particularly signet rings, and used them to convey wealth and status. The Celtic and Saxon kings wore Garnet as adornment on their armour, and native American Indians used it as protection. Royalty across time and country have enjoyed the beauty of Garnet and prized it as a valuable treasure. It is an extraordinary gemstone that has meant so much to many.
The chemical makeup of Garnet comprises a group of silicates. In addition, trace elements such as iron or aluminium give Garnet a distinct colour and category. As a result, garnet is a diverse gemstone found in a spectacular array of colours, notably in a scale ranging from green, yellow, orange, red and purple. Garnet varieties rate between 7.5 - 8.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, making these gems acceptable for everyday wear.
Garnet is most synonymous with being the birthstone for January and also represents the 2nd wedding anniversary, giving those looking to have jewellery made for these occasions a broad choice in colour and garnet type.
Almandine Garnet, the most common of the garnet varieties, is of an iron alumina makeup giving it a deep red colour that inclines through to a purplish hue. Almandine is found abundantly in the gem rich gravel pits of Sri Lanka and is sometimes affectionately referred to as a Ceylon-ruby. Additionally, it was found in the Northern Territory of Australia and was first mistaken as ruby. Almandine Garnet is affordable, with beautiful cuts in larger carat sizes under the $1000 NZD price range. Almandine Garnet makes it possible to achieve ruby's look, lustre, and aesthetic without the exorbitant price tag. Pictured is a 3.94ct example that we recently had available in our online store.
Demantoid Garnet / Russian Garnet was discovered in 1868 in Russia's Ural Mountains and is the rarest type of Garnet. Highly refractive Demantoid Garnet boasts a green colour that rivals an emerald with brilliance and lustre that rivals a diamond. For this reason, Demantoid Garnet is the most expensive of the garnet family. This green beauty was a favourite precious gemstone of Carl Fabergé, a jeweller to the Imperial Family of Russia. Fabergé often incorporated this natural treasure into his iconic imperial Easter eggs. Prices begin at $875 NZD per carat and soar to $26000 NZD per carat.
Hessonite, a type of Grossular Garnet, has a calcium-aluminium silicate mineral makeup. It ranges from a yellow-orange to a reddish-orange colour tone and is sometimes referred to as 'cinnamon stone' due to its distinctive colour. An inexpensive garnet option that is visually appealing, Hessonite is a popular gemstone choice due to its use in Vedic Astrology. Prices range from $100 NZD to $675 NZD per carat depending on quality, cut and carat size.
Mahenge Garnet is named after the area in which they are found, Mahenge, a town in a mountainous region of Tanzania. Mahenge is famous for its neon pink-hued gemstones, particularly spinel. Mahenge Garnet varies in colour, from soft lilacs and hot pinks to padparadscha toned pinky-oranges. Still well priced, starting at around $500 NZD per carat, this is a good investment garnet, underpriced in the gemstone market.
Malaya / Malaia Garnet is a hybrid variety of Garnet, a mix of Almandine, Pyrope and Spessartite Garnet. Discovered in the 1960s in Umbra River Valley, bordering Tanzania and Kenya, the term Malaya means 'outcast' or 'prostitute' in Swahili. Local miners initially gave this term because dealers would not purchase it as it did not fit into any known garnet categories. Times have changed, and today, Malaya Garnet, with its hue of peachy-pink to peach-orange, is sought after, especially gemstones in over 3 carats which fetch prices upward of $365 NZD per carat.
Mali Garnet, named after the only country it is found, is a rare mixture of Grossular and Andradite, with colours ranging from yellowish-green, brownish-green and brown through to a minty green hue. Mali Garnet is prized for its striking brilliance and diamond lustre, making less desirable colours such as brown visually attractive. Prices for Mali Garnet do have a wide variance in pricing, starting at $100 NZD per carat, with exceptional examples fetching over $2200 per carat.
Rhodolite is a mix of Almandine and Pyrope Garnet composition and its name is derived from the Greek word 'rhodon' meaning 'rose tinted'. The most sought after Rhodolite Garnet is a vibrant raspberry red followed closely by a deep grape purple hue. Red Rhodolites have earned nicknames such as Arizona Ruby, New Mexico Ruby and Montana Ruby due to their copycat apperance. Rhodolite Garnet is sometimes referred to as Umbalite Garnet, specifically for gemstones originating from the Umba River area in Tanzania. Deposits for this popular garnet type are found across four continents, including Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, the USA and Zimbabwe. Prices for good quality Rhodolite start at $220 NZD per carat and range up to $440 NZD per carat.
Spessartite Garnet deposits were discovered in Namibia in 1991. The name 'Spessartite' is derived from the Bavarian word, 'spessart', meaning 'forest', a mountain range in Germany where Spessartite Garnet deposits were present in the 1880s. Once rediscovered in Namibia, this striking Garnet made a popular comeback. Referred to as Fanta Garnet or Mandarin Garnet because of its distinctive orange colour Spessartite Garnet is a member of the Isomophorous family. Spessartite Garnet is a visually brilliant gemstone with a higher refractive index than sapphire giving it diamond lustre and sparkle. For this reason, prices can soar with good quality gemstones fetching up to $1460 NZD per carat.
Tsavorite Garnet takes its place in the Grossular Garnet group, a fabulous vivid green gemstone that rivals an emerald in looks and beauty. Tsavorite is found in eastern Africa, in Kenya and Tanzania. It is named after the Tsavo East National Park in Kenya, close to the Tanzania border where it was first discovered. Tsavorite garnet is seldom mined in sizes that can cut faceted gemstones 2 carats or larger due to the harsh geology. The vast majority of Tsavorite crystals in a vein or a pocket are 1 carat or less. Larger gems are found in geodes or 'potatoes' as miners refer to them, where they have had time to grow over 2 billion years. Miners very rarely find top grade gems, and crystals that can cut faceted gemstones of over 2 carats or larger are rare in a miners lifetime. The rarity of quality Tsavorite Garnet allows it to command prices of $1200 NZD per carat up to a staggering $15000 NZD per carat.
You may ask how the same gemstone category can have such a wide variance in price? For example, a Mali Garnet can range from $100 NZD to $2200 NZD per carat. When buying a coloured gemstone, the 4 C's determine the final price point. Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat. All of these factors come together to play a vital role when grading a gemstone. Cut; how well the gem is faceted to bring out the gem's colour, lustre, and overall beauty. Colour; minor variations on the colour scale can move prices up or down drastically; a pale minty Tsavorite for example, will fetch a much lower price than a vivid grass green option. Clarity; a gem with inclusions (natural markings within) will cost less than a very similar cut/colour/carat comparable gem that is completely clean. Gemstones over 5 carats in weight total add a premium to the price per carat.
For further reading on Tsavorite Garnet take a moment to read our our blog post titled Tsavorite Garnet - The Official New Zealand Guide
The Sapphire Merchant stocks a beautiful range of garnets for every taste and budget. If you have specific requirements for a gemstone, I can source you precisely what you are looking for; visit my BROKERING page for more details.