Garnet: The Birthstone Of January


The most desirable and valuable of the Garnet gemstone are clear blood-red, cherry-red or violet-red gems, which may have a brilliancy that compares favorably with the sapphire. The olive to deep green stones are occasionally sold as “olivine” and “peridot”, varieties of chrysolite which they resemble. Garnets range in specific gravity (or weight compared with the weight of an equal volume of water) from 3 to 4.30. The specific gravity of the Earth is about 5.5 although the earth’s crust is but 2.7. Their degrees of hardness lie between 6 and 8 on the lapidary’s scale, which means that the softest will be scratched by a good file, while the hardest, uvarovite and some kinds of andradite, will abrade quartz or “rock crystal.” Quite large quantities of the harder stones not suitable for gem purposes are ground for use as abrasives. These gems are usually found in beautiful crystal forms of geometric regularity species. Sometimes they appear in globules or rounded seed-like disseminations scattered like raisins in a bread pudding through a matrix of mica schist or gneiss. Evidently they were named from deposits of the latter type, for the word “garnet” is derived from granatin, meaning “seed-like” or “grain-like”. Nearly every country in the world contributes them, with German East Africa, Australia, Bohemia, Brazil, Ceylon, India, Uruguay, and the United States supplying the most valuable types. The largest crystals come from Salida, Colorado, and one of them of which I know weighed 1,414 pounds. In 1885, workmen, excavating on West 35th Street in New York, uncovered a garnet weighing ten pounds and measuring more than six inches in diameter. These huge stones cannot be used as gem material, however, because they are too coarse in structure, spotted and badly flawed and opaque. The finest rarely exceed the first joint of one’s thumb in size, while the average is only slightly larger than a large pea. The best varieties are worth from $1.50 to $5.00 a carat, which is one-fifth of a metric gram, and on the average bring about $3.50 a carat. These gems are used in all types of jewelry—bar-pins, brooches, festoons, pendants, rings, cuff links, scarf-pins, beads and neck-chains. The lowest priced jewelry is the so-called “Bohemian Garnet Jewelry” made by Czecho-Slovakian peasants, and varies from $2.50 to about $40.00. Better class types cost from $15 to $50 for ladies’ rings, and $30 to $300 for festoons and necklaces. Of course, jewelry set in platinum or platinum with diamonds or pearls may range in price into the thousands of dollars. You January-born cannot help but be proud to wear your birthstone. Perhaps through the centuries it has lost the mystical powers the ancients ascribed to it, but it has not given up a single iota of its warm, rich beauty, nor any of its burning glow, which was thought to be a living fire by primitive peoples. It is a stone that always is distinctive, whatever the type of jewelry in which it appears.

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