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All About Garnets

Where the world comes to find out all about Garnets


All About Garnets

Garnets are not just the warm red colors often found in early antique jewelery. There are many other rich colors available. Garnet in fact includes a number of different gemstones with a very similar chemical structure. The red is the most frequent but other colors such as yellow, green and even blue, for example, have been found.

Also there are the color changing garnets, which will show up as a blue or brown in daylight but change to red or another colour in artificial light. This is called asterism and is extremely rare and mostly of these types of garnets come from and area in Madagascar.

Garnets are at around 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale and are just below rubies and diamonds on the scale so are quite hard and very suitable for jewelery. Another point in favour of garnets is their high refraction of light, the reason for the amazing brilliance of Garnets.

The shape of the rough crystal is also interesting. Garnet, after all, means something like "the grainy" and is derived from the Latin word "granum" meaning "grain". This refers to the typically rounded shape of Garnet and also resembles of the seeds of the pomegranate. In the middle ages, garnet was also called "karfunkel" in German, referring to the glowing red of the sparks of fire sometimnes found within the garnet. Today there are a lot of imaginative names used in the trade, such as Arizona Ruby, Arizona Spinel, Montana Ruby or New Mexico Ruby.

Garnets have been used widely for many thousands of years. It is reported even Noah used a lantern from garnet in order to safely steer his Ark through the darkness of the night. Garnets can be found in jewellery from ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman times. Many travellers wore garnets for protection also, as they were considered talismans and protective stones against evil. Today we know that the luminosity of garnet is caused by its high refraction of light.

Garnet Facts

The word Garnet comes from the Latin, 'granatus' meaning grain. This is a possible reference to the pomegranate fruit which has seeds of a similar shape size and color to some garnet stones.

Although many people think of garnets as green garnets are in fact, usually red in color but can also be found in a number of other colors including purple, orange, yellow green brown and even black. Even colorless crystals of garnet have also been found.

In the 1990s a color change garnet blue to red/pink material was found in Bekily, Madagascar. However these are extremely rare. In daylight the color can be shades of green, beige, brown, gray and rarely blue which then change to a reddish or purplish/pink color in incandescent light. These garnets are composed of a mix of spessartine and pyrope, as are Malaya garnets.

The color change of these new garnets is often more intense and more dramatic than the color change of top quality Alexandrite garnets which sell for many thousands of U.S. dollars per carat. It is expected that blue color-change garnets will match Alexandrite prices or even exceed them as the color change is often better and these garnets are much rarer. The blue color-change type is mainly caused by relatively high amounts of vanadium. The garnet is a beautiful stone that has been in use since the Bronze Age and is the birthstone for January.

Possibly the most famous green Garnet is Tsavorith or Tsavolith, another Grossularite. Tiffany's in New York re-named the stone which had been discovered in 1967 by British geologist Campbell R. Bridges in North-East Tanzania. The emerald-green stone was named after its occurrence near the famous game park Tsavo-National Park. Tsavorith is of a vivid light to velvety deep green and, like all other garnets, is of strikingly high brilliance.

The garnet group of minerals show crystals with a habit of rhombic dodecahedrons and trapezohedrons. They are nesosilicates with the same general formula, X3Y2(SiO4)3 in which the X site is usually occupied by divalent cations (Ca, Mg, Fe2+) and the Y site by trivalent cations (Al, Fe3+, Cr). The chemical elements in garnet include calcium, magnesium, aluminium, iron2+, iron3+, chromium, manganese, and titanium. Garnets show no cleavage and a dodecahedral parting. Fracture is conchoidal to uneven; some varieties are very tough and are valuable for abrasive purposes. hardness is 6.5-7.5, specific gravity is 3.1-4.3, lustre is vitreous to resinous, and they can be transparent to opaque. The name "garnet" comes from the Latin granatus ("grain"), possibly a reference to the malum granatum ("pomegranate"), a plant with red seeds similar in shape, size, and color to some garnet crystals.

Garnets are most commonly red in color but can be found in a variety of colors, including purple, red, orange, yellow, green, brown, black, or colorless. The lack of a blue garnet was remedied in 1990s following the discovery of color-change blue to red/pink material in Bekily, Madagascar but these stones are very rare. Color-change garnets are by far the rarest garnets except uvarovite, which does not come in cuttable sizes. In daylight, their color can be shades of green, beige, brown, gray and rarely blue, to a reddish or purplish/pink color in incandescent light. By composition, these garnets are a mix of spessartine and pyrope, as are Malaya garnets. The color change of these new garnets is often more intense and more dramatic than the color change of top quality Alexandrite which is frequently disappointing, but still sells for many thousands of U.S. dollars per carat. It is expected that blue color-change garnets will match Alexandrite prices or even exceed them as the color change is often better and these garnets are much rarer. The blue color-change type is mainly caused by relatively high amounts of vanadium (about 1 wt.% V2O3).

Six common varieties of garnet are recognized based on their chemical composition. They are pyrope, almandine or carbuncle, spessartite, grossularite (varieties of which are hessonite or cinnamon-stone and tsavorite), uvarovite and andradite. The garnets make up two solid solution series; 1. pyrope-almandine-spessarite and 2. uvarovite-grossularite-andradite.

Garnet is the birthstone for January, and has been used since the Bronze Age.

Buying Garnets

Buying garnets is a fairly simple matter. There are just a few guidelines to keep in mind.

Firstly buy from a reputable dealer, either online or in your own city. Find the best possible dealer you can. They have more to lose selling fakes so of course do not. This does not mean buying from a 'chain' jewelers. It means sourcing out a real dealer in garnets and that can also mean doing some research to find out who is the best.

As with diamonds, due to the rarity and beauty of the garnet there are many fakes on the market and it pays to know something about garnets and how to tell the real from the fake.

The garnet should be clear with no or invisible inclusions (bubbles within the stone caused when it was first formed) or flaws.

Examine the stone for the cut. Does the surface reflect light evenly? Check for any scratches or marks on the surface of the stone.

It is a good idea to examine two or more garnets together. That way you can select the stone you like the most.

Lastly keep in mind that if the stone is "cheap" it is most likely not a real garnet.

Some garnets are more valuable and therefore more pricy than diamonds so you can end up paying many thousands of dollars for a really fine garnet. So it pays not to just take on trust the first 'garnet' you are offered by the local jeweler. Try to look at several at the same time. Do a comparison. Also check the setting, is it a claw setting or a paste or glued in? You need to see the back of the gemstone also so it should be a claw setting, especially for a ring. What sort of metal is the garnet set in. 9 karat gold or higher? It should be at least 14 karat gold or pure platinum. Garnets look splendid in any setting and can really set off the metal it is set in.

Check the stone for cracks, scratches and that it is a good symmetrical cut. All good quality garnets should be accompanied by a certificate from an independent gemological laboratory. If it does not have this ask for one and if the dealer will not give you one (simply offers his own perhaps) then go elsewhere.

Unlike diamonds, which can show of their beauty even when small, say below a carat. garnets really need to be at least one carat or more to display their splendor to the best advantage. The bigger you can afford on your budget the better.

Selling Garnets

When selling garnets there are a number of factors to keep in mind.

Firstly that, unless you are selling an antique garnet, such as an antique ring for example, you are unlikely to get what you paid for the garnet originally.

Unlike some precious metals, gemstones do not range in price very mich and do not have dramatic increases in value. In addition when one buys a garnet, such as in a ring or broach, then there is the jewelers mark up or premium and that can be as much as 30 percent if not more so when it comes to sell you have lost that part of your original payment already. How much you get then can depend largely on how you sell the garnet.

You can sell to a dealer or back to the jeweler you got the garnet from but this will result in you getting perhaps 20 percent of the value. A Pawn broker will give a bit more perhaps. Selling privately or byy auction will most likely net you the best price. First you need to know how much the garnet is worth. Doing some study and browsing the online dealers will give you an idea of the value of your garnet. Then once you have an idea of the value of your garnet you will nowm what you can ask for it.

Auction houses such as eBay and Bidz.com are two well know auction houses where one can sell one's garnet. To ensure you get what you ask for you can set a reserve price. Obviously if you try to sell for more than the garnet is worth it is unlikely you will get any buyers. But with some work, study and due diligence you should get a satisfasctory price for your garnet.

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