Grand Garnets

Experience garnet, a truly versatile group of gorgeous gems.

By: Colton Bartel

Garnets have been used to adorn royalty and the wealthy for centuries. Pharaohs were buried with them, Romans used carved garnets in rings to make wax seals on important documents and garnets were the favorite of clergy members for hundreds of years. Today, garnets have taken a backseat to more “desirable” stones and are seen as almost too “common.” The truth of the matter is that garnets are very beautiful stones that come in a wide range of colors, but have been given a rough life only because they are more plentiful than most gems.

Photographed from the GIA Collection for the CIBJO project. Top row, left to right: 16.94 ct yellow oval garnet; 19.89 ct round orange spessartite garnet; 44.28 ct round, deep pink rhodolite garnet; 16.99 ct reddish orange cushion cut garnet; and 7.26 ct cushion cut tsavorite garnet. Bottom row, left to right: 8.20 ct oval greenish yellow garnet; 12.36 ct oval golden yellow garnet; 9.22 ct pink pear cut garnet; 14.53 ct light green cushion cut grossular garnet and 4.32 ct bluish green cushion cut garnet.

Most people think of brownish-red stones any time they hear “garnet”; however, garnet doesn’t refer to just one particular stone. Garnets are actually a group of stones that have very similar shared properties. It is, of course, much more technical than that, but unless you intend to study gemology, there is no reason to bore you with the details. Since they are a group, it allows for a lot of variety. As a matter of fact, there are more than 20 different species of garnet, but only five of those are significant to the jewelry industry:

1. Pyrope
2. Almandite
3. Spessartite
4. Andradite
5. Grossularite

The two that make up the vast majority of garnets in the industry are Pyrope and Almandite. Both of these are primarily red in color, but can vary from purple to orangey red. These two are popular because they have some of the more desirable colors, they are plentiful in a lot of different sizes and shapes and even large stones are usually very affordable. Garnet is the birthstone of January; therefore, beautiful red Pyrope and Almandite garnets are perfect for birthstone jewelry.

The most distinctive internal feature of demantoids is the “horsetail” of fibrous serpentine (chrysotile) that is present, in whole or in part, in most pebbles or cut gems. Note the tiny crystals (probably chromite) from which all the fibers radiate. Magnified 20x.

Spessartite garnets are a little bit lesser known, but still used quite often in jewelry. Generally they are an orange to yellow stone that is very bright and is sometimes confused with sapphire and even diamond. They are significantly more rare than the previous two, and though they are all garnets, few would actually know what they are at first sight. Some of the better examples of Spessartites can almost appear as though they are on fire or glowing hot; this appearance definitely sets them apart from the group. Because they are more rare and also desired by collectors, they are usually much more expensive than the usual red varieties.

Platinum, diamond and demantoid garnet ring. The total diamond weight is 1.06 cts. and the demantoid weighs 3.20 cts.

Even more rare than the Spessartite is Andradite garnet. Andradite makes up some of the yellow and green varieties seen most often only in collections, but occasionally in unique jewelry pieces. The most notable type of Andradite is Demantoid. These garnets are usually similar in color to the yellowish green of Peridot, but they can have one of the most unique inclusions of any stone, horsetails.

Horsetail inclusions only occur in this one specific variety of garnet and in no other stone, and they appear just how they sound: like horsetails. The inclusion looks like golden strands of hair flowing in the wind either in one small area or throughout the entire stone.

To make it even more interesting, those who are looking to purchase these lively green gems actually want to see this inclusion in the stone and are cut to display the horsetail! Unfortunately for Demantoids, they are quite soft and susceptible to abrading and scratching, which is why they are not more widely used in jewelry.

Finally, there is Grossularite! This is my personal favorite variety of garnet. To be more specific, this is the Tsavorite garnet. Tsavorites are a very rare type of beautiful green garnet, often confused with emerald! Like most garnets, they are usually very clean and really bright. Top-quality Tsavorites look like museum-quality emeralds and can sometimes command prices that rival emerald.

Most of these stones come from East Africa, and they are by far the most important green variety of garnet. They are much more durable than the Demantoids and are usually more vibrant in color. Collectors love them, as well as discerning jewelry buyers. Tsavorites’ color and intensity definitely demand attention and make for great conversation pieces. Though they are more plentiful than other green garnets, Tsavorites’ beauty and consumer demand keep the prices relatively high.

Garnets of all varieties have their own special place in the industry, and few others are as versatile. Though many may have discounted their beauty or have forgotten them altogether, garnets still stand as some of the greatest contributors to the jewelry industry and history. I encourage you to visit your jeweler and really experience this group of “grand garnets” for yourself. They won’t disappoint!

To experience garnets for yourself or ask questions, please contact Colton Bartel, G.G., A.J.P., with Susann’s Diamond Jewelers, located at 4254 S. Alameda in Corpus Christi, Texas. You may also visit Susann’s online at www.susanns-jewelers.com or on Facebook, or you can call 361-991-7565.

Photos courtesy of GIA