Garnet is a family of related minerals. Each has a common crystal structure and a similar chemical composition. The luster on its surface can range from being vitreous (glass-like) to resinous (amber-like).
Most people think that it is exclusively red. In fact, garnet is available in a far greater variety of colours. Incredible discoveries, especially in Africa, have enhanced the traditional image of the garnet with an astonishing number of hues. These colours include red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, black, pink and colourless. Of these, the most unusual is the blue garnet, discovered in the late 1990s in Bekily, Madagascar. Since then, it has also been found in some parts of the United States, Russia and Turkey. It changes colour from blue-green in daylight to purple in incandescent (basically speaking, artificial) light. Other types of garnet can also change their hues in different lights. In particular, several varieties appear reddish or purplish in incandescent light, so that it is frequently mistaken for Alexandrite.
Garnet is particularly popular in fine jewellery because despite its exotic appearance, it is relatively inexpensive and easy to get hold of.
Its name is derived from the Latin granatus, meaning ‘seed’, because when first mined from rock garnet often resembles small round seeds.
Garnets have been popular for thousands of years – it is found in fine jewellery from early Egyptian, Greek and Roman times, and according to legend, Noah used a garnet lantern to help him steer his ark through the dark night, the magical properties of the garnet lighting up the night and protecting him from evil and disaster.
There are various types of garnet: