When we think about garnet, the red January birthstone usually comes to mind. The name garnet derives from the Latin word ‘granatum’ meaning pomegranate, the fruit that garnet crystals most closely resemble. Common garnet may be red, but it occurs in a surprisingly huge spectrum of colors thanks to the phenomenon of mixing among the garnet species. Credit to Lina Jakaite, Geologist, Vilnius, for the above complex garnet mode graphic.

The red color garnets which are widely used in mass manufactured jewelry are either almandine or pyrope and their iron content result in the purple to brown colors of almandine; chromium causes the vibrant red found in pyrope. Examples of this range include the rhodolite garnet found in the Umba area of Tanzania, resulting from a mixture of pyrope and almandine types. The beautiful reddish-purple rhodolite was named for a garnet from Macon County, North Carolina. An even more purple pyrope almandine garnet from Mozambique was recently discovered in 2016.

Another surprising garnet combination known as malaya is a hybrid of pyrope and spessartine which produces a rich orange red color. The pyrope, almandine and spessartite mixtures also include the malaya and umbalite garnet varieties.

Spessartine and hessonite are orange garnets occurring in the yellow to deep orange color range. Spessartite is best known and widely available in a deep orange but also known as the mandarin garnet, which is a color description for the rarer lighter orange variety. The hessonite colors include a deep red-orange color and a yellow-variety typically found in Sri Lanka.

Tsavorite first appeared in the United States in the 1960’s but was introduced in 1974 by the president of Tiffany and Company. Tsavorite is a rich green garnet whose color results by the presence of vanadium. The name comes from the Tsavo National Park, in Africa. Demantoid is another rare green garnet whose brightness rivals a diamond. It is colored by chromium impurities and the desirable ‘horsetail’ inclusion is caused by asbestos. Several other examples of green garnets include the grossular, mint green, Mali and the emerald green uvarovite.

The color-change garnets are green-blue in daylight and magenta in incandescent light, with a color change similar to color-change sapphire. The main sources for the color change garnet are Africa, India and Sri Lanka.

Overall, garnet are wonderful gems to collect and own. They are suitable for everyday wear and are one of the few gemstones that do not respond to treatments and are simply mined, cut and polished. The majority are surprisingly affordable and available in a wide variety of colors. Please check out our selection of garnet jewelry and make one your next gemstone purchase.