Happy birthday to all you January babies! If you were born in this illustrious first month of the year, you’re lucky enough to call the garnet your birthstone. Garnets are fabulous gemstones that offer a wide range of versatility in shape and color, plus they’re quite durable so you can wear them without worrying (always a plus in my book). Read on to learn more about the different types of garnet and to see some of the beautiful options we’re featuring in our showroom to celebrate these beautiful gemstones…
While garnets can be found in a wide range of colors and shades, they are most commonly found in their signature hue of deep red. Their namesake is derived from the 14th-century English word “gernet” for “dark red.” Tracing the linguistic lineage even further, “gernet” is a connotation of “granatum” in Latin, which means seed, so called because of the garnet’s deep pomegranate seed red hue.
Unlike sapphires, which shift in color depending upon impurities entering the mineral corundum, the term “garnet” is actually a classification for a group of minerals which display varying colors and clarity characteristics. Each mineral/color characteristic is called a “variety” of garnet, and they can vary widely in hue and clarity. For example, the minerals almandine and pyrope display deep, velvety red shades of garnet, while the mineral spessartine is responsible for a variety of orange colors of garnet. Grossular minerals display the widest range of color varieties and are sub-categorized according to their hue: tsavorite garnets are a green variety of grossular mineral; hessonite garnets are orange-red; and rhodolite garnet is a purplish-red variety.
It can get confusing, but the classifications can have real meaning when it comes to clarity expectations of the gemstone. For example, the red garnets almandine, pyrope, and rhodolite typically do not display eye-visible inclusions and are therefore wonderful for a multitude of gemstone cuts and sizes. Some of the orange varieties of garnets like spessartine and hessonite often display eye-visible inclusions and therefore can present more limitations to how large or clear the gemstone may be sourced. Because of these variables, garnets can also range dramatically in price depending upon the specific variety at hand.
With all these technical classifications under your belt, now for some romance. Garnets have been used in jewelry since the Bronze Age and coveted by royalty from ancient pharaohs through Victorian queens (and, of course, you!). They’re a wonderful birthstone to represent the first month of a new year: according to Indian astrology, garnet gemstones help remedy negative feeling such as depression and guilt, and they instill self-confidence and mental clarity to promote creative thinking and inner peace. Not a bad talisman to wear throughout the year, right?
Because of their relative hardness — they range between 6.5 and 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness, which is softer than diamonds, sapphires, and rubies but harder than opals, emeralds, and pearls — they are ideal for earrings, brooches, and pendants. Rings are okay, but should be worn with some care (I like to say, “don’t garden or kickbox in them”). And, caring for your garnet is relatively easy: warm soapy water is great, and a soft-bristled toothbrush won’t scratch the gemstone.
To celebrate the month of garnet we’re carrying a number of beautiful pieces in our showroom, and yes, many of these are 10 percent off through the 12th! If what we have isn’t quite right, consider a custom design. We can walk you through different color options and create the perfect, meaningful piece to add to your collection.
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.