One of the oldest pieces of jewellery featuring garnet beads dates to more than five thousand years ago in Ancient Egypt, where it was found in an Egyptian grave. The tradition at the time was to bury important and wealthy individuals with their most treasured earthly belongings so that they could be taken with them to the afterlife. We are not surprised that this necklace was chosen to make such a journey.
Garnets are a valuable and versatile gem that have been used to adorn a variety of accessories for centuries. The Antique Pyrope Hair Comb is perhaps one of the most famous historic garnet pieces. Dating to the Victorian era, it’s set with approximately 100 rose-cut pyrope garnets, an extremely popular gem cut at the time.
Garnets are composed of a group of several minerals - pyrope, almandine, spessartine, grossular and andradite being the most important. Pyrope and almandine come in purple to red colourways, spessartine in vivid orange and yellow tones, whilst andradite (also called demantoid) is found in green hues. The grossular variety has perhaps the widest colour scale, being found in almost completely colourless tones through to yellow, orange, and red as well as the strong vibrant green gem we know as tsavorites. Although some garnets are readily available, a certain few are extremely rare. The electric green demantoid, fiery orange spessartite and deep red to purple rhodolite are perhaps the three most valuable varieties.
Garnets are found in a variety of places around the world. Historically, Bohemia was the largest source, however today much of the world’s garnet stock comes from the African continent. Demantoid and spessartine garnets are mainly sourced from Namibia, whilst tsavorites are brought from Kenya, Tanzania and Madagascar. Garnets can also be mined in Myanmar, Brazil, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. However, don’t let their prevalence fool you into thinking these are cheap gems. The market is oversaturated with these minerals, meaning that ones of exceptional quality are hard to come by. As well as this, tsavorites and spessartites are rarely found naturally and are especially rare in high carat weights.
The rarity of certain garnets has caught the eye of high jewellery houses the world over, many of which choose to create exceptional one-of-a-kind pieces featuring the January birthstone as their focal point. In its Mediterranea high jewellery collection, Bulgari created the Oriental Fantasy necklaces, which boast over 90 carats of mandarin garnets of outstanding quality. Paired with vibrant citrines to further accentuate their warm orange colouring, the inspiration behind this necklace was to evoke the earthy hues of Northern African spice markets. Chanel’s Tweed de Chanel high jewellery collection also boasts an exceptional selection of spessartite garnets. The Tweed Gabrielle ring has an oval-cut 10.48-carat spessartite garnet at the heart of its design, and the matching Tweed Gabrielle necklace has one of 12.64 carats. Similarly, Boucheron, Chaumet and Louis Vuitton all used garnets to express their love of colour and artistry in their latest high-jewellery creations.
When it comes to garnets, you might be spoiled for choice, however, the quest for quality is of the utmost importance and one that is rarely found. Below is a selection of jewellery pieces by brands who have sought out the most beautiful garnets on the market to make perfect creations for the special January baby in your life, even if it’s yourself!