If you are thinking of purchasing vintage garnet jewelry, you have come to the right place. In this article we cover everything you need to know about vintage garnet jewelry. You can then decide if garnet is the right stone for you and will know how to buy a high-quality piece.
In the following table of contents, you will see the topics covered in this article. Click to be taken to that section, or just start reading from the top.
What is a Garnet?
Garnet is not a single mineral, but rather a group of several closely related minerals. The most widely known color of Garnet is dark red, but garnets come in a variety of colors including, orange, yellow, green, purple, brown, black, pink, and colorless.
When the term "Garnet" is used, it is most likely referring to the dark red form, other colors of garnet are given more descriptive gemstone terms.
Garnets have a variety of names including, almandine, andradite, demantoid, grossularite, hessonite, pyrope, rhodolite, tsavorite, spessartine, and uvarovite. Two types if green garnets are called tsavorite and demantoid. They are the rarest type of garnet and are more expensive than red garnets.
Garnets have a hardness of 6.5 - 7.5 on the MOHS scale. Garnets are never heat treated or enhanced, and the colors are always natural. Garnets are a naturally brilliant gemstone, and are valued based on the combination of carat weight, color, cut and clarity.
Garnet is the modern and classic birthstone for the month of January.
Some examples of Garnet varieties:
Varieties of Garnet
There are six recognized species of garnet: pyrope, almandine, spessartite, grossularite, uvarovite, and andradite.
- Garnets that have a distinctive red color and closely resemble rubies are of the pyrope variety. They have a high refractive index that makes them have impressive brilliance.
- The most popular garnets are of the almandine variety. These kinds of Garnets come in red, reddish orange, and brownish red colors. They look similar to pyrope types, but not as vivid.
- Grossularite varieties are another popular type. They have the largest color range, from colorless through yellow to reddish orange and orangy red, to a strong, vibrant green. Both tsavorite and hessonite are varieties of this type.
- The andradite variety is the most lustrous of all the garnets. It has three sub-varieties: the rare emerald-green to olive-green Demantiod, the yellow to brownish-yellow Topazolite, and the lustrous opaque black Melanite, commonly known as Black Garnet.
- Uvarovite is a deep emerald green color and is very rare.
History of Garnet Jewelry
The name “garnet” comes from the Latin word “Garanatus,” meaning “seedlike,” in reference to a pomegranate. The history of garnets are rich and vast, I will just be skimming the surface in this article. The oldest garnet jewelry dates back to 3000 B.C. A necklace containing garnet beads were found worn by a young man in a grave.
Red Garnet necklaces have been worn by the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, ancient Romans used carved garnets in signet rings to stamp wax seals, and they were popular with the clergy and nobility of the middle ages. According to the ancient Jewish text known as the Talmud, a garnet provided the only source of light on Noah's Ark.
A strong Garnet jewelry industry based on red pyrope garnets started in Czechoslovakia in 1500, and until the 19th century, it was the world's largest source of gem garnets. Traditionally, Czech garnets were set with a large number of small stones, which were close to one another like the seeds of a pomegranate. Fiery red garnets were highly popular in Europe and were frequently used for jewelry in the Victorian times, they were incorporated into everything from rings and brooches to buckles and necklaces.
The Symbolism of Garnet
Garnets are a symbol of the womb and are associated with women and the feminine life-force. They were worn as a protective talisman against negative energies. In the middle ages, garnet was used to enhance truth and faith, and to dispel melancholy.
Watch the Following Video to see the Colors of Garnet
Garnet Value Indicators
Garnets come in a variety of colors, and the purer the color, the higher the value.
The purer the color and the closer it is to the spectral red, the more valuable the stone. Also, the distribution and depth of the color within the stone will affect its value. A lighter red is less valuable than a deeper red. Some gemstones show streaks or bands of lighter or darker colors when viewed from the top or the sides. Consistent color throughout the stone is more valuable.
Cut refers to the quality of how the stone is cut, not the shape it is cut in.
Garnets are faceted to reflect the light entering the stone and bounce it around to show off the gems brilliance. If the facets are not lined up properly, the light leaks out and the stone loses some of its brilliance.
Many garnets are cut into standard shapes and sizes for use in jewelry. Red garnets are often cut into cabochons and beads, they commonly have high clarity and are very transparent. Some garnets, such as the fine-quality tsavorite are cut into shapes that maximize the stones carat weight. Demantoid is often cut to exact proportions that allow the best possible display of its fire.
Typical garnet clarity depends on garnet type. For example, some of the orange garnets, like spessartine and hessonite, often have eye-visible inclusions, whereas the red garnets almandine, pyrope, and rhodolite typically do not have eye-visible inclusions.
Garnet is a type 2 gem. Type 2 gems are usually found with inclusions and a high quality specimen would be eye clean rather than almost loupe clean as in the case of a Type 1 gem.
Clarity Grades of Type 2 Gems:
- VVS - Minor inclusions, somewhat easy to see with 10X. Usually eye clean.
- VS - Noticeable inclusions under 10X. May be eye visible.
- SI1 - Obvious inclusions, large or numerous under 10X. Apparent to unaided eye.
- SI2 - Obvious inclusions, large or numerous under 10X. Very apparent to unaided eye.
- I1 - Moderate effect on appearance or durability.
- 12 - Severe effect on appearance or durability.
- I3 - Severe effect on both appearance and durability.
- Dcl - Not transparent.
Garnets with visible flaws are not as valuable as stones without flaws.
Garnets can be found in all sizes and weights. Some garnets, like almandine, are common in larger sizes so there’s no dramatic rise in value as size increases. Other garnets, such as demantoid and tsavorite, are more commonly found in small sizes, so their value goes up significantly with size.
Garnet Vs Ruby - How to Tell the Difference
Red garnets and rubies can be very similar in appearance to the untrained eye. Because rubies are more valuable than garnets, garnets can sometimes be passed of as rubies. Luckily, there are ways to tell them apart.
If you hold up your stone against a bright light source, you can examine its spectrum. The spectrum is the rainbow created by moving the stone around.
- Garnets will reflect bands of yellow and green.
- Rubies will reflect blues and reds.
Also look for double rainbows within the stone.
- Rubies are doubly refractive, which means a double rainbow will appear.
- A garnet is single refractive and will produce a rainbow that is clearer and less blurred than that of rubies.
The color of red garnets and rubies is often slightly different.
- Red garnets also contain orange, brown, green, and other earthy tones.
- Rubies, on the other hand, are usually vivid red (sometimes they have purplish or blueish secondary hues).
- If you place a garnet and ruby side by side, a garnet will pale in comparison to the red of a ruby.
Ruby and garnet have different hardness ratings.
- A ruby has a high ranking of 9 on the Mohs scale, just below diamonds which rank supreme at 10.
- A garnet, on the other hand, is quite a soft stone and ranks at 6.5 to 7.5.
- Garnets are excellent for minimalist jewelry, earrings worn as studs or delicate dangle earrings look particularly stunning.
- Garnet pendants and bracelets are a way to add a touch of color without going overboard.
- Garnets can work as statement pieces, a garnet cocktail ring will surely be an eye-catcher. A garnet statement necklace offers a bold and confident look.
- Garnet engagement rings look lovely, but the stone can be easily scratched and damaged. A garnet ring would need to be well taken care of and removed often to withstand day to day life.
- Garnet pairs well with silver colored metals, but also looks great with gold.
Tips on Buying Vintage Garnet Jewelry
Vintage jewelry is a huge market and it can be hard to sort through the choices. You want to make sure you are getting what you pay for. Always be wary if a price seems to good to be true - because it probably is.
Shopping online is a great way to take your time to find vintage jewelry. I personally love to shop on Etsy for my vintage jewelry; there are many wonderful and knowledgeable sellers to browse through.
- Always ask a potential seller for details about your jewelry and the stones within it, honest sellers will be open about the details they know.
- Read customer reviews and feedback about a seller before purchasing.
- Buy your jewelry from someone who has Gemological Institute of America (GIA) cerificaiton (or employs someone), so you know that they are knowledgeable about gemstones (such as Fergusons Fine Jewelry on Etsy).
Where to Buy Vintage Garnet Jewelry
I will list my favorite shops on Etsy for buying vintage garnet jewelry. These shops all have excellent customer feedback, GIA certification, and excellent return policies.
Buying vintage garnet jewelry is not too difficult of a process. Being armed with the knowledge from this article will help you navigate the vast selection that is out there. Work with your seller to make sure you are getting high-quality jewelry, and you will not be disappointed.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below! I always answer and am here to help.