One glance at the deep red seeds nestled inside of a pomegranate fruit explains why the word “garnet” comes from the Latin word “granatus,” meaning “grain” or “seed.” This name was given to the garnet because of its close resemblance to the succulent pomegranate seed. But don’t bite into a garnet, because at Moh’s hardness 6.5 to 7.5, it will definitely damage the teeth!
There are many myths and legends surrounding the garnet. One Biblical legend is that Noah hung this gem on the ark to light his way through the dark and stormy nights of God’s wrath. A Greek myth linked to the garnet is the story of the young goddess of sunshine, Persephone, who was abducted by Hades, god of the underworld. Hades eventually released Persephone, but not before he offered her some pomegranate seeds, which guaranteed her return to him.
First mined in Sri Lanka over 2,500 years ago, the garnet is also found in Africa, Australia, India, Russia, South America; and in the United States, in Arizona and Idaho. Although most commonly known as a red gemstone, the garnet comes in a variety of other hues, including muted yellows, vibrant oranges, rosy pinks, lime greens, and violets—a virtual bouquet of colors. This diversity is due to unique combinations of elements within each particular gem, such as iron, calcium, and manganese.
Archaeologist findings of primitive style garnet jewelry among the graves of lake dwellers dates the early use of this gemstone to the Bronze age. But not all garnet is of gem quality. It is also a very effective abrasive and is used commercially for grinding and polishing. Garnet coated sandpaper is one such industrial use.
The garnet continues to be the protective gem of journeyers. A gift of garnet is thought to be symbolic of love and the desire for a loved one’s safe travel and speedy homecoming. It is January’s birthstone, but far from being only a winter gem, the garnet, with its brilliance and multitude of colors, is truly one for any season.