The name garnet comes from the Latin word ‘granatus’ meaning ‘seeds’ – clusters of garnet crystals resemble the red seeds inside a pomegranate. However, garnets are a set of closely related minerals that form a group, resulting in gemstones of almost every colour. The name garnet refers to this group of minerals related in composition and crystal structure, but with interchangeable elements.
There are more than 20 garnet categories, called species, but only five are commercially important as gems. Those five are pyrope, almandine, spessartine, grossular (grossularite) and andradite. Garnet is rarely pure as many are a mixture of the species.
Red, yellowish red and purplish red, red colour caused by iron, usually with addition of chromium. The name comes from the Greek ‘pyrops’ meaning fiery.
Originally found in Bohemia (Czech Republic), large quantities of Victorian jewellery were produced during the end of the 19th century with pyrope garnets. Usually rose-cut in clusters around a larger central cabochon of stars and crescent designs, they were in the form of necklaces, pendants, brooches, bangles and even hair ornaments. They were made with gilt metal… so not expensive.
The division between pyrope and almandine is arbitrary; generally almandine is a darker brownish red to purplish-red, or pale to deep mauve. It is the most common of the garnet species.
Garnets with a distinct intense raspberry red colour are called rhodolite. A compositional mixture of almandine and pyrope, the name is from the Greek word ‘rhodon’ meaning rose-coloured. It’s a gemstone used by the finest jewellers from Faberge to Tiffany and Chaumet.