This month’s birthstone is Garnet, it’s not always thought of as the most exciting of gems but actually Garnet is a series or family of quite beautiful gemstones. Garnets can be broken down into the following 6 types:
This is the red garnet that most people are familiar with, you can get some beautiful deep red shades at pretty affordable prices. Red gemstones are often pricey as the Chinese market always has a high demand for them and most red gemstones do not come in large sizes such as ruby and spinel.
Almandine Garnet is close to Pyrope garnets in the series but can have more shades of brown and purple tones. Rhodolite garnets can be beautiful, this red-purple garnet is a mix of the pyrope-almandine series.
Spessartine or Mandarin Garnet is the rare orange gemstone variety from the large, colourful Garnet family. In the north-west of Namibia by the Kunene River the first Mandarin Garnets were discovered in 1991 embedded in mica and mica schist. Crystals from Namibia were of an unusually fine, intensely radiant orange. They were more beautiful and more radiant than anything that had gone before them. Fortunately, that unique find on the Kunene River was not the only one of its kind. In April 1994, more orange spessartines appeared in Nigeria. Spessartines can also be found in Sri Lanka, Upper Burma, Madagascar, Brazil, Australia, Kenya and Tanzania. Apart from its magnificent colour it also has a very high refractive index, which gives it unusually strong brilliance.
This covers the orange swirly-treacle like Hessonite and the bright unmistakeable emerald-green Tsavorite.
Tsavorite is a spectacular gemstone that was discovered in East Africa in the late 1960’s. and named after the Tsavo game reserve in Kenya. To this day, this exceptionally rare green garnet is found nowhere else in the world except in an area of barren, wilderness that stretches from south-western Kenya into Tanzania. Tsavorite is only found in relatively small sizes. On average, it takes over 1 ton of gem bearing rock to extract under 5 carats of fine 1 carat pieces. Fine stones over 2 carats are rare, indeed the Smithsonian Gem Collection’s prize piece is just 7 carats.
Demantoid garnet is an Andradite garnet, it is the most valuable of the garnet family coming only from the Urals, A wonderful shade of green with characteristic horsetail inclusions. Demantoid can have a deep shade of green to rival that of emerald and it’s lustre and dispersion are almost diamond-like. The gem is super rare as a clean, faceted stone but examples with the horsetail-spray fibrous inclusions are also well sought after.
Uvarovite garnet is a chromium bearing green garnet – a rare collectors stone seem in museums rather than in jewellery as it is almost opaque.
So there you have it, like all good families Garnets have more character and variety than you can shake a stick it. Maybe January doesn’t look so bleak after all?