Do you know what a garnet is? If you are quick to say, yes, it’s a dark red gemstone... well, read on because you are in for a world of surprises.
Garnets come in black, bright lime green, Fanta orange, brilliant yellow, gorgeous deep greens that will make an emerald turn greener with envy, clear-colorless garnets, my favourite pinks and purples, and of course the deep, luscious pomegranate red you may already know!
If you do a gemmology course, they will tell you that garnets basically come in every colour in the rainbow. They used to say that was true except for blue but a recent discovery has now meant that you can also get garnets in blue—at least under a specific kind of light, they change colour to blue.
If you can’t find a colour of garnet you like, then how about a garnet with horsehair inclusions (basically that is like wispy lines within the stones), a sapphire star or even garnets that change colour depending on the type of light you view them in?
This is the one stone that the more I get to know them, the harder I fall in love!!
In Southern Africa, we are lucky enough to have so many different types of garnets here that you almost have no reason to look outside of our area for a garnet that will capture your heart!
Of course, we have the common red garnet in Africa, but we also have the rarest of garnets, the Tsavorite, which is the gorgeous green I mentioned above. The tsavorite garnets are the most expensive in the world, and although small ones are more common, ones that are a carat or more are very rare and seriously expensive.
We are also lucky enough to have pink and purple garnet in Zimbabwe, mined along the Mozambique and Zambian borders.
Zimbabwe also has the orange garnets, but not the Fanta colour you can get in some areas of the world—but still pretty cool!
The word garnet comes from the Latin word for pomegranate. In Greek mythology, Hades was passionately in love with Persephone. He abducted her and brought her down to the underworld.
Hades was commanded by Zeus to allow her to leave. Hades was a bit sneaky and gave her a pomegranate seed, which he knew would bring her back to him.
As soon as she tasted the sweetness of the pomegranate, she knew she had to go back for more! So, she returned to the underworld for three months of the year for the rest of eternity.
As a result of the myth, garnets became the stone to give to a loved one and to those who were going on a journey to ensure their safe return.
Lions carved into garnets were worn as rings or amulets, as it was believed that garnets and lions combined would most definitely keep you safe on any journey!
Red garnets were found as far back as 3,100 BC in Egypt. Talk about a stone with some staying power!!
Garnets were a favourite of ancient warriors. Funnily enough, in some cultures, it was considered to protect you and, in others, to inflict more harm on you!
The most famous warrior to use garnet as protection in battle was King Solomon. Garnet is thought to be one of the four stones given to him by God.
In Roman times, they were used to adorn shields used in battle to protect the warrior. The Anglo-Saxons had garnets put into their brooches, pendants, and buckles, which they wore into battle for protection. Historically, in Europe and the Middle East, they thought that garnets would help wounds heal and protect them against poison.
And yet in Asia, garnets were added to weapons as they were thought to inflict more damage on your enemy. As late as 1892, garnets were used in battle against the British. Kashmir carved bullets out of garnets, which they believed would inflict more damage to the British than lead bullets. I’m guessing if you survived being hit by one of those bullets, it was a cool souvenir to take home!
During the time of the Roman Empire, garnets were the most widely traded gemstone in the entire empire. The Romans carried garnets as protection for travel along Roman roads, carved into seals to use on important documents, and their use was inadvertently spread to the Germanic tribes they were fighting. The Germanic tribes incorporated them into their art and into their Cloisonne work.
In the Middle Ages, garnets were a favourite of the clergy and nobility and even thought to protect you against the plague, poisons, and bad dreams! Wonder if I should be wearing them just in case they work against Corona!! 😊 They were also though to help cure depression and evil thoughts.
The colour of red garnets reminded people of blood and it was also associated with healing disorders of the blood and associated with the life-giving blood of the womb. It was because of this association with the womb that for a while it was thought that only women should be allowed to wear garnets.
Also due to the common garnets red colour it was also used in the Middle Ages in crosses and thought to symbolize the blood of Christ.
Today we still consider them a symbol of love and protection and it is considered the appropriate gift for your second wedding anniversary.
Even as I write this blog post I am falling in love with garnets all over again! Every month I have a new love affair, which is what is so fun about birthstones!