Gem of the month: April’s garnet and its properties
When you think of garnet, you probably think of a dark red stone that is used commonly in birthstone jewellery – and as April’s birthstone, it is frequently worn in necklaces and rings. However, there’s much more to this beautiful gem, which boasts a history as varied as the stone’s colouring.
Garnet actually comes in a variety of colours. While the deep red hue that most people know is the most commonly sold form of garnet, the stone also can be found in shades of blue, green, purple, pink, and orange. This variation of colour is due to differing chemical compositions, and there are about 17 varieties of garnet that are known. Garnet is quite durable, but it can be brittle. Unlike other gemstones, garnet is rarely treated by jewellers to enhance colour or clarity, because its natural beauty is often enough.
Garnet has been used for adornments and other items for centuries, dating back to the times of ancient Egypt and Rome. Jewellery and other pieces containing the gemstone have been discovered from these eras, and history books tell the stories of royalty and other famous individuals who had a passion for the stone. In fact, Plato once had his portrait engraved on a garnet.
In later years, the stone was one of the most commonly traded gems, valued for its beauty and rarity. This changed somewhat with the discovery of the world-famous Bohemian garnet deposits in the 1500s, which made the stone much more widely available. Since then, garnet has remained a favourite among people from nobility to clergy to modern-day middle class society, in spite of its relative commonness.
The garnet has a fascinating history in terms of its purported metaphysical properties as well. During medieval times, the gemstone was used to combat depression and prevent bad dreams. Other healing properties associated with garnet include promoting a healthy heart and liver and curing diseases in the body.
Beyond these physical benefits, the stone was said to bring honour to warriors and could even predict if danger was coming when worn as a talisman. The ancient Greeks associated garnet with eternal love, and the stone was (and still is) often given to a loved one embarking on a trip as it also is said to ensure a speedy return.
Because of their prevalence, garnets are not as valuable as some other gemstones. Much of the overall value of a garnet is determined by the type of garnet it is, as some are rarer than others. The colouring of the stone also plays a large role in its worth, as does the cut, clarity and size of the gem. Garnets can range widely in price, and it’s not difficult to find a quality stone for a comparatively inexpensive price.
Garnet is one of the natural world’s greatest gifts – beautiful, versatile, and relatively abundant. Whether you were born in April or not, you can enjoy this stunning example of nature’s bounty – and possibly even improve your health while wearing it.