The first birthstone of the year is January's birthstone: the vibrant garnet. Although garnets are usually identified as being dark red in color they actually come in a wide range of colors with blue being the rarest. Garnets have always been associated with pomegranates because their natural appearance often resemble pomegranate seeds. The word garnet is thought to have come from the Greek word granatum meaning pomegranate.
Like many other gemstones the quality of garnets are determined by color, cut, carat and clarity; however more emphasis is placed on color. Vivid and rich colored garnets are usually valued at higher prices. They are renowned for their glossy luster and are usually very clear in appearance. Some species of garnet even have color changing properties. Garnets are graded 6.5-7.5 on the Mohs scale, thus they are used as an abrasive especially for industrial uses such as sandblasting and water jet cutting.
According to legend a garnet lantern was hung in Noah's Ark mast to illuminate the ark through floods. Garnets were once carried by travelers to illuminate the way in the dark protect them from evil. To this day they have become an amulet given to people going on their travels. We now know that garnets have a high refractive quality.
Garnets have been used in jewellery for thousands of years. Many pieces have been discovered within Pharaohs tombs and relics from the Middle ages and ancient Roman times have been found containing garnets. They experienced a revival in Bohemia in the 1600's and also during the Victorian era when deposits were uncovered.
Perhaps two of the most famous garnet pieces in modern history belonged to Jackie Kennedy. One was a delicate garnet flower brooch sold in 1996 for a a staggering $145,000 in auction at Sotheby’s. Jackie also possessed another famous garnet, a Victorian heart ring which she discovered in an antique shop in London. The iconic ring is set with a heart-shaped garnet carbuncle and surrounded with diamonds. The ring was sold at over 20 times it's estimated worth at her estates auction. Many imitations of these pieces have been produced since.
The garnet is a fascinating stone - not just because it's physical components have proved to be extremely useful but it's beautiful appearance have always allured people throughout the ages. All of our January birthstone Claddagh rings are set with lab created heart shaped garnet.