Buyer's Guide for Red Garnet Gemstones

Five thousand years ago in Ancient Egypt, a king was buried with a few of his most treasured possessions. Among them is a necklace of red garnet beads that you could still wear today. Red garnet was the most popular gem of the ancient world, treasured by the pharoahs of Egypt and the senators of Ancient Rome.

The name garnet comes from the Latin name for dark red pomegranate seeds, granatum. The garnets of the ancient world were all red. Today garnets come in every color, including orange, green, and gold. The most popular garnets, though, are still red: fiery small pyrope garnets, wine colored almandine garnet, and dark purplish pink rhodolite garnet.

The garnets of the ancient world are still beuatiful today because garnet is tough and durable. Tiny garnet grains are the original “sand” in sandpaper and garnet is still widely used as an abrasive.

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The History and Meaning of Garnet

In legend, garnet shines to guide and protect travelers on their journeys. One story says that Noah’s Ark was lit by a lantern made of garnet.

In the bible, garnet is the carbuncle, the red gem that shines like a burning coal. Archeological sites all over the world show the wide appeal of garnets in jewelry, weapons, and other precious objects.

In the Middle Ages, red garnet was used to adorn crown jewels and cathedrals. In 1500, a large deposit of pyrope garnet in Central Europe made red garnet more available and the Bohemian garnet craze began, lasting for hundreds of years and reaching its height in the Victorian period.

An antique hair comb in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is an example of Bohemian garnet jewelry style, encrusted with rose-cut pyrope garnets. Today, this style of jewelry is set with darker red almandine garnets.

Garnet is also found in the United States. Garnet is the official state gem of New York, Vermont, and Idaho and the state mineral of Connecticut.

Garnet is the birthstone for January and the gemstone of the second anniversary. The meaning of garnet is fertility, prosperity, and protection, making it a perfect gift for a new mother. A gift of a garnet means that you hope to see someone return to you again safely.

Where Citrine is Mined

Garnet is one of the most common gems, found in metamorphic rocks on every continent and in many places in the United States. You can pan for garnet in a stream in Idaho and might even discover a star garnet.

Different varieties come from different places: some are very rare and some are much more common. Red garnets are relatively common. Green garnets are much more rare: tsavorite is mined almost exclusively in Tanzania and Kenya. In Victorian times, a large find of green demantoid garnet was discovered in Russia but it’s very rare today. Both types of green garnet are thousands of dollars a carat.

One of the most famous garnets ever discovered is a 9 pound red garnet crystal discovered in an excavation on New York City in 1885. Named the Subway Garnet (despite an expose in the New York Times that it was actually discovered during a sewer excavation on 35th Street and Broadway), it was acquired by the American Museum of Natural History.

How to Buy Garnet

Red garnet ranges from a pastel purplish pink to a fiery red to a dark burgundy. Different tones have different personalities.

At RockHer, we’ve matched our preferred garnet colors to Pantone’s system to communicate the range of red garnet hues available. Which is your favorite?

When selecting a red garnet, avoid brown secondary colors and too many black reflections that make a garnet look rusty or dull.

Cut quality is very important for the beauty of garnet gemstones: a well-cut garnet will sparkle evenly across the entire gemstone with no dull, washed out, or lifeless areas.

Garnet Buying Guide Checklist

  • Garnet Color: Medium saturated purplish red, red and orangish red
  • Garnet Clarity: Eye clean
  • Garnet Shapes: Oval and rounds are most common
  • Garnet Cut: Well proportioned, with overall brilliance
  • Garnet Polish: Excellent
  • Garnet Treatment: None

How to Care for Garnet

Because garnet is a group of closely related gems, its hardness varies from 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale. Most red garnets are very durable.

To keep your rings clean, don't wear them when applying lotion or creams or using cleaning products like cleanser. Store all your gemstone jewelry separately, especially when travelling, so gems and metal can’t scratch each other. Clean with mild dish soap: use a soft brush behind the stone where dust can collect.

Red Garnet vs Rubellite Tourmaline

The red gem most similar to garnet is red tourmaline, which is also known as rubellite. Garnet is generally much darker in tone than tourmaline with softer less saturated shades and dark reflections. Tourmaline can be very electric in color, from a hot fuchsia pink to a true red. Neither gem has the fire-engine red color of a fine ruby, the mist expensive red gem, but each has its own charms. Garnet is the most affordable red gem so a fine quality garnet gives you a lot of beauty at a relatively affordable price.

Best Garnet Engagement Ring Styles

The most popular garnet engagement ring style is a diamond halo ring with a pave band. Garnet also looks lovely in vintage style engagement ring settings. Three stone garnet engagement rings most often have a round, emerald cut or oval garnet in the center and pear shaped or round diamonds on the side. Garnet is complemented by all three colors of gold: white gold, yellow gold and rose gold.