All About Garnets, the January Birthstone

Photo via Photo via

January's birthstone, the garnet, is a versatile stone because its chemical makeup allows it to be a very hard stone. Although popular throughout history, it is still a popular stone today, especially for those who were born during the first month of the year. Although most often seen in red, the garnet can be a found in varying colors throughout the rainbow. Colorless, all shades of red, all shades of orange, yellows, greens, and even purples and browns can describe the different varieties of this stone. Although they are beautiful in jewelry, there have been many other uses for the garnet throughout time.


Garnets have been found in jewelry that dates back as far as the ancient Roman, Greek, and Egyptian times, and it is believed that the garnet's warm red tone was even used in a lantern to illuminate Noah's ark as it sailed through the night. Necklaces made of red garnet were worn by pharaohs and were even added as prized possessions to their tombs along with their mummified bodies, upon burial. They were believed to be worn in the afterlife. In ancient Roman times, garnets were carved and used in signet rings, stamped into molten wax to be the secure closure of important documents. They were some of the most widely traded gems and were among the favorites of noble men and the clergy. Garnets were also carried by travelers and explorers because it was believed that the garnet was a protective stone and would prevent disaster and protect its wearer from evil. Garnets have been worn as jewels throughout time and are still widely worn today.

Where to Find Them

All of the different types of garnets can be found in different parts of the world. In the United States, garnet is mined in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Virginia. In Africa, it can be found in Eastern Africa but also in Namibia, Kenya, Angola, Nigeria, Mali, and Madagascar. Other places around the world where garnets are found include Turkey, India, Sri Lanka, Europe, Russia, and Tanzania.


Garnets are formed from a number of different minerals, so they can look very different. Most often, the garnet is thought of as red in color. This is the pyrope and almandine garnet, which makes the stone appear anywhere from an orange-red to a purple. Other varieties include the grossular, which can range in color from colorless to reddish-brown and everywhere in between, including oranges, yellows, and greens. Spessartine forms mostly orange garnets, while andradite is mostly yellow-green and yellow. Demantoid is a more sought-after type of garnet and is usually a brilliant green color. Rhodolite is found in the more purple-red variety of garnets.

Photo by Mauro Cateb (Flickr) Photo by Mauro Cateb (Flickr)


Garnets that are of the red variety, mostly almandine, pyrope, and rhodolite, don't have inclusions that are visible to the naked eye. Some orange types do have inclusions that you can easily see. The more translucent stones, usually grossular, are used for making beautiful beads, cabochons, and carvings.

Making Jewelry

Jewelers find that the garnet is an easy stone with which to work. Precautions must be taken when it comes to heat treatments, but other than refraining from knocking them around consistently, they are easy to use and insert into different jewelry pieces. They have great brilliance because of their refractive index. The shape of the raw crystals is round and grainy and can seem similar to the seeds in a pomegranate.

Photo by Strangell (Flickr) Photo by Strangell (Flickr)