January Birthstone Garnet

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Deep red garnets are most popular in jewelry, but the gem is also found in varieties of every color. Garnet has been worn and used for over 6000 years.

Most people think of garnet as a deep red stone, but in fact, garnet can occur in any color of the rainbow. This semi-precious stone is the birthstone for January and the official gemstone for the second wedding anniversary.

Rainbow Garnet

Garnet is the name of a group of nesosilicate minerals with differing compositions, colors, and properties. Although blood-red garnet is the most famous variety, garnet occurs in every color of the rainbow:

  • red Almandine
  • red Pyrope
  • pink to violet Rhodolite
  • orange Spessartite
  • yellow Hessonite
  • 1.18-Carat Octagon-Cut Dark Green Kenyan Tsavorite Garnet
    Octagon-Cut Dark Green Tsavorite Garnet

    green Demantoid

  • green Tsavorite (rare)
  • bright green Uvarovite (rare)
  • color changing garnets of several varieties

The rarest is the blue garnet, colored with vanadium, which changes to purple under incandescent light.

The hardness of garnet ranges from 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale depending on the variety.

Garnets in Myth and History

Garnet has been known to humankind for as much as six or seven thousand years, and has been found in primitive, Bronze Age jewelry. The name “garnet” is derived from either the Middle English word “gernet,” (dark red) or the Latin “granatus,” (seed or grain) – supposedly for the red garnet’s resemblance in the natural rock to the seeds of the pomegranate fruit.

Garnet is one of the gemstones named on the breastplate of Aaron, thought to be the original twelve gems that began the idea of birthstone jewelry. In Christian tradition, it is connected with the suffering and death of Christ, and with salvation. Modern translations of the Bible name garnet as the large red stone that Noah used to light the ark during the flood.

In the Middle Ages, garnet was believed to stop bleeding and to cure diseases of the blood. Garnets were also said to heal the skin and ensure lasting friendship.

Garnet grains grow scattered inside the igneous and metamorphic rock, so they can be useful scientifically in dating and determining other significant information about the history and development of the areas in which they are found. Garnet that is not considered gem quality is often used in industry as an abrasive, including on sandpaper.

Magical Significance and Powers of the Garnet

Like most gemstones, garnets have been attributed with a long list of healing and magical powers. Garnet is said to:

  • heal the blood
  • protect against evil and disaster
  • strengthen friendships
  • ensure safety on voyages
  • cure food poisoning

Garnet Gemstone in Jewelry

Garnet is most often seen in antique and old-fashioned Victorian jewelry, in the deep, rich red colors for which it is well known. But since the discovery in the 1990s of new deposits of garnet in non-traditional colors, the stone has been making a comeback in fashionable modern jewelry.

The garnet is the official gemstone for the 2nd wedding anniversary, making it a popular choice for gifts of rings, earrings, pendants, and bracelets. Garnet is mined in the U.S., South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Myanmar, Scotland, Switzerland, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, India, and Russia.


  • Bernardine Fine Art Jewelry, “January Birthstone – Garnet,” Bernardine.com, 2009.
  • International Colored Gemstone Association, “Garnet,” Gemstone.org, 2009.

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