What is Garnet?

It is true to say that red is the color most often associated with garnets, but the gems also exists in various shades of green, a tender to intense yellow, a fiery orange and some fine earth-colored nuances. The only color it cannot offer is blue. Furthermore, the world of garnets is also rich in rarities such as star garnets and gemstones whose color changes depending on whether they are seen in daylight or artificial light.

There is a good hardness to garnets, which is the reason for the excellent wearing qualities of these gemstones. Garnets are relatively insensitive and uncomplicated to work with. The only thing they really don’t like is being knocked about or subjected to improper heat treatment. A further plus is their high refractive index, the cause of the garnet’s great brilliance.

All garnets have essentially the same crystal structure, but they vary in chemical composition. There are more than twenty garnet categories, called species, but only five are commerically important as gems. Those five are pyrope, almandine (also called almandite), spessartine, grossular (grossularite), and andradite. A sixth, uvarovite, is a green garnet that usually occurs as crystals too small to cut. It's sometimes set as clusters in jewelry. Many garnets are chemical mixtures of two or more garnet species.

Probably the best known green garnet is the tsavorite or tsavolite, which also belongs to the grossularite group. It was discovered in 1967 by a British geologist, Campbell R. Bridges, in the north-east of Tanzania - after the place where the discovery was made, near the Tsavo National Park with its wealth of game. The green of the tsavorite runs from vivid and light to deep and velvety and, like all garnets, it has particularly good brilliance.

Garnet collage

The star of green garnets is the rare demantoid, a gemstone for connoisseurs and gemstone lovers. Its dispersion is positively tremendous, even greater than that of the diamond. Russia’s star jeweller Carl Fabergé loved the brilliant green garnet from the Urals more than anything else, and used it in his creations. Meanwhile, the demantoid is no longer quite as scarce in the gemstone trade, thanks to some new finds in Namibia. Demantoids from Namibia are of good color and brilliance, but they lack one tiny feature: the so-called ‘horse-tail inclusions’. These fine, bushy inclusions are the unmistakable, typical feature by which a Russian demantoid is recognized.

Anyone who loves what is pure and natural and the warm, sun-bathed colors of late summer will be fired with enthusiasm by the color spectrum of the garnet. Today, garnets mostly come from African countries, but also from India, Russia and Central and South America. Globally, skilled cutters work the gemstones into classic shapes however, there is also a strengthening trend to cut them into modern and imaginative shapes. Garnets remain convincing with their natural, unadulterated beauty, the variety of their colors and their tremendous brilliance. Anyone acquiring garnet jewellery can be assured that the joy he or she derives from this beautiful gemstone gift from Nature will be long-lasting and undimmed.