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Imagine sitting by a fire on a chilly January night. Snuggled up under a blanket on the couch, you gaze into the embers, slowly burning out at the bottom of the fireplace. The heat and flickering colors put you at perfect ease. This deep fiery color is the perfect hue to combat the cold - it’s no surprise that garnet, with those same warm tones, was chosen as the birthstone for this month. Read on to learn all about this inviting gem.
January is a month of new beginnings and re-ignited enthusiasm for our goals. Garnet, according to some legends, could be just the thing to help you with these ambitions. It has been said to help invigorate the body and mind. The rich red tones represented heat to ancient peoples - quite literally - and can keep you warm as you conquer whatever tasks life has in store for you. It was even mentioned in biblical texts, referred to as “carbuncle” or “carbunculus,” which means “small spark.” Since we live in the desert, the reds of this stone would have been considered especially precious, as they are filled with the power of the sun and earth.
For centuries, garnets were among the most widely traded gemstones. It was a traditional gift given among friends and lovers to wish them well before a journey. It was symbolic of a quick return of separated love. Some even say that garnet was used to illuminate Noah’s Arc - ensuring that the voyage was safe for all aboard. Some placed value in just being near the stone itself, and it has been said that gazing at a garnet could lead to intense passion or anger. Pliny the Elder even went so far as to recommend these gemstones for ailments - they were said to cure almost everything from heart diseases to melancholy. Though they may have gotten the magical powers of this gemstone wrong, they were certainly right is believing that this gem was valuable above others.
Garnet can be found in a variety of localities all over the world, from Brazil to Sri Lanka, from Kenya to Madagascar. Did you know that this gem is also found right here in Arizona? Found on the Navajo Reservation in the Four Corners area, this gem is brought to the surface by ants, working to build their homes. The deep reds of this gem make it stand out from the lighter colored soil, and it is easy for these treasures to be picked up as you walk past! These gems are typically small in size, generally weighing under a carat, because ants are smart enough to simply move around gems that are too large to carry! The small size of these gems seems to be a blessing, though. Larger sizes appear almost black, as the color is so heavily saturated. Smaller gems allow light to pass through, and the brilliant red color can still be seen. These gems are highly sought after by collectors and rockhounds. There aren’t many people that can say they have a gem mined for them by an ant! We love this unique stone for its interesting mining process and it’s incredible depth of color. It has even been called the Arizona Ruby!
Garnets exist in almost every color, though red is the color that is most commonly associated with this gem. In actuality, they range from pinks to yellows to vibrant green! Varying chemical composition causes different colors to be shown. “Pyrope” garnets are the variety found here in Arizona, and are quite durable. They rank a 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, and are a great option for everyday wear. In fact, a garnet necklace was uncovered that is more than 3000 years old! How’s that for longevity? It is the birthstone for January, as well as the gemstone for 2nd anniversaries.
Caring for your garnets is easy. It can be cleaned with warm, soapy water and dried with a soft cloth. We recommend using a baby toothbrush or jewelry cleaning brush to remove and dirt and debris from underneath your gem. It is not recommended that these gems be placed in an ultrasonic cleaner - hand cleaning is best (and easiest!). Jewelry should always be the last thing you put on when getting ready for the day, and the first thing you take off when you arrive home, to avoid unnecessary wear and tear. Garnet jewelry is durable and easy to care for, making for an excellent gift for yourself, or anyone you love!