Lovely green garnets!

Last, and by no means least, dear January babies, are the 2 green garnets in the group! To start is tsavorite, which gets its name from Tsavo National Park where Scottish gemologist Campbell Bridges first discovered them while he was working in Zimbabwe in 1961.  A geological map showed him that hills near his camp had various types of rocks that possibly formed minerals deposits or gemstones.  On his day off, he started for the hills to explore, and as he was making his way up the edge of a gully, a buffalo charged at him!  Talk about having your heart in your mouth!  He did what anyone would do; he jumped into the gully (can you see it?)! After the buffalo left, he was checking out the area where he found the green crystals in an outcrop (a visible rock formation).  His second discovery was made in 1967 in Tanzania, then, in 1973, Bridges and Tiffany & Co introduced tsavorite to the world.   The color ranges from bright yellowish green to deep green or bluish green.

This amazing find of an 185-gram tsavorite took place in East Africa!

Here are the photos of both sides of the uncut stone

Here is faceted stone weighing in at 325.13 carats (deeeee-licious!)


Tsavorite hardness: 6.5-7.5 on the Mohs scale

Toughness: very

Cleavage: none

Stability to light: Stable

*NEW* Buyers guide – look for gems that are emerald green in color.  The color shouldn’t be yellowish green or too dark, as these are considered lower grade gems.  View it under daylight as incandescent lighting can make it appear a little more yellowish.  For all gems, when it comes to cut, never compromise!  The light should reflect evenly across the gem, making it sparkle.  Look for eye-clean or near eye-clean gems.  If you have any doubts when you’re making a substantial purchase, you can always get an independent lab report to ensure that the merchandiser is selling you the gem they say it is, not just a bill of goods, you dig?

Another green garnet, demantoid, was originally discovered in Russia around 1853 by a group of children (and not a charging buffalo in sight!).  They are found in other parts of the world but the Russian-mined garnets remain the standard by which all other demantoid gems are measured.  By the way, a well-cut demantoid can display such a stunning amount of dispersion (the ability to split white light into the full spectrum of color – a.k.a fire); it can have a higher rate than a diamond! Peter Carl Faberge integrated this garnet into some of his pieces for the Royal family from the late 1800’s until 1917 when the Russian revolution brought a sudden end to the house of Faberge and the Romanov dynasty. Russian demantoid garnets are considered a highly valued due to the long, thin needle-like strands of chrysotile (a form of asbestos) forming what is called “Horsetail inclusions”.  These golden wisps are markers of Russian origins, but they are also found in gems from Iran and Italy.  They are not found in those from Namibia and Madagascar. Check out this example of Russian demantoid.  You can see how the inclusions burst like fireworks!



Below are two views of a pendant Peter Carl Faberge created using a delicious demantoid garnet.  Staring at his gorgeous enameling makes me itch to get back to it, myself!


Because I care, here is a demantoid brooch, circa 1885 (L) and a ring auctioned at Sotheby’s; you can see the horsetail inclusions in the ring…


Although the greens between tsavorite and demantoid overlap, the demantoid is a bit softer and has higher refraction (how the varying density of gems make light waves change direction as it passes through it) and dispersion.

Demantoid hardness: 6.5-7 on the Mohs scale

Toughness: good

Cleavage: none

Stability to light: Stable

Buyers guide – While an emerald green color is the ideal, it really comes to a matter of personal taste; darker gems will have less fire whereas a lighter color will show more fire.  They are rarely more than 1 or 2 carats in size.

Care: Garnets are heat sensitive and should not be exposed to sudden changes in temperature.  Ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended.  The best way to clean them is with a soft cloth or soft brush (not a toothbrush and only if needed) with warm water and a mild soap.  Rinse thoroughly with the same temperature water to make sure all soap is rinsed off.  Although they are tough and durable, remember to protect them from hard blows and keep them away from other gems to prevent scratching.

Symbolic meanings for garnet to use in your gift-giving guide are: Purity, Truth, Faithfulness, and Friendship.  It’s also the gemstone given for the second wedding anniversary. *

That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed learning about the garnet group as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you!  Later this week, I will start off by using gemstones as an acrostic message.  On week 2, I will give you some tips for taking good care of your lovely jewelry and then we will spend the remainder of the month exploring February’s birthstone, Amethyst.  Thanks for your time!


Please feel free to ask for reference information

*this information will be provided in the last birthstone post.




2nd of 3 posts about garnets

This week I’m starting with spessartite garnet, whose name comes from the Spessart Mountains in Bavaria, where it was discovered in the 1830’s. It was a rare gem until an important find was discovered in Namibia, Africa in the early 1990’s. Now, this garnet gets its delicious orange color from its manganese component, making it one of the few gems that owe its color to its composition rather than impurities. As an example, chromium is the impurity that makes rubies red and emeralds green! Fancy that, eh?

Mohs hardness – 7-7.5
Toughness – fair to good
Cleavage – indistinct
Stability to light – Stable

Next is pyrope, the garnet most of us are familiar with. The name is derived from the Greek word, “pyrōpós”; “pur” = fire and “ops” = eye, meaning fiery-eyed. Large deposits of this garnet were found in Central Europe (Bohemia) in the 1500’s, so they are also referred to as Bohemian garnets which were highly popular until the1800’s. Their popularity is still seen in today’s jewelry pieces, and because of its dark color, it goes well in men’s jewelry. Below is a beautiful Bohemian garnet hairpin from the Victorian era that Ales and Maria Herdlicka donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1937. *dreamy sigh! *


There is one pyrope that has an unusual and surprising locale…ant hills! Yes, you read that right! These tiny (less than a carat) garnets are found on and around ant hills, especially in Arizona. You see, as ants dig their intricate network of tunnels, they come across the gems. While they work around larger stones, the smaller ones get taken to the top and chucked outside. As rain falls, the stones get washed off and moved down the side of the hill where they are collected then sold in lots to lapidaries who cut them, then sell them to jewelers and collectors who will mount them into jewelry. Shown below are photos of ant hill garnets. Fun, eh? I knew you would think so!

Moh’s hardness – 6.5-7.5
Toughness – good
Cleavage – none
Stability to light – Stable

Last is the love-child of spessartite and pyrope; color change garnet. This garnet comes from different parts of the globe, but those mined in Norway can exhibit colors that can exceed that of alexandrite! Some of the best specimens come from Bekily in Southern Madagascar whose colors change from greenish-brown to red-pink. Unlike many gems that change color by simply changing the viewing angle, this garnet has the specific ability to show dramatic changes in colors (brown/gray, bronze, greens, blues, pinks, reds and purple) by viewing it under various lighting. To get the full effect of this fabulous gem, it should be viewed under various lights (incandescent, candle and fluorescent) and different times of the day.  Consider me officially in love!!!  It’s important to note that the photos you see are of the same gem…
Here’s a nifty YouTube video of color change garnet; copy and paste into your browser to watch the magic happen!

Color change garnet hardness – 7-7.5 on the Mohs scale
Toughness – good
Cleavage – none
Stability to light: Stable

Care: Garnets should not be exposed to sudden changes in temperature. Ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended. The best way to clean them is with a soft cloth or soft brush (if needed) with warm water and a mild soap. Rinse thoroughly with room-temperature water to make sure all soap is rinsed off. Although they are tough and durable, remember to protect them from hard blows and keep them away from other gems to prevent scratching.
That’s all for this week, I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you would like my list of references, please don’t hesitate to ask! Feel free to comment and ask questions and I will reply as quickly as I can! Thanks for taking time out of your day to read this and because I posted it so late in the week, look for the final post no later than Saturday, have a great day!

Happy Birthday, January babies!

Happy Birthday to those born in the month of January! If you’re wondering if this a re-post from last year’s one and *ahem* only, it is (more or less); however, I’m adding in some things that weren’t included in last year’s post. So please visit this page each week and read on over the remainder of the month! My goal is to give you enough history, lore, care and chemistry knowledge about your special gemstone to wow people at your next cocktail party – not to mention that you’ll be a straight-up smarty pants!:

For you who are born in the month of January, yours is the birthstone of garnet, a gem that draped the necks of the pharaohs of Egypt and was entombed with their mummified corpses.  In ancient Rome, signet rings were set with carved garnets that were used to stamp the wax that secured important documents.  During the middle-ages, Garnets were considered cures against depression and protection against bad dreams. It’s also said that the Greek philosopher Plato had his portrait engraved into a Garnet by a Roman engraver!

Garnet is a group that shares the same crystal structure (think “family”).  However, the slightest diversity in their compositions (individuals within the family) will create a variety of colors; for example, Almandine Garnet (which will be talked about in this post) and Spessartite Garnet both share aluminum silicate as 2 parts of their chemical structure, but what separates them is their 3rd element; the iron in Almandine gives it colors that range from brownish red to blackish red, whereas Spessartite’s 3rd element of manganese delivers its (yummy) orange color.

When thinking about garnets, the color most people are familiar with is red, but as you can see from photo #1 (above) Garnets come in a fabulous color assortment, so…. if red garnets aren’t your thing, I’m certain you can find the color that suits your fancy! Not all colors will be discussed in over these 3 weeks, but I will cover as much as I can! As the different Garnets are discussed, I will post photos of the gems in their rough and faceted states *happy sigh!*, so you know how your birthstone looks both ways! You never know, you may start to fall in love with gems in their rough state! Just for fun, I will also include the gems in a jewelry setting…you’re welcome 😉

First up, is Almandine garnet, whose name is derived from the ancient Carian city of Alabanda (modern Doğanyur) in Turkey.  almandine-garnet-03102012-2-1


While there is a vast amount of this gemstone that is mined, only a small percentage is considered gemstone quality.  Like the red coloring of Pyrope, its differences are that it’s a bit heavier and darker; with its coloring ranging from brownish red to blackish red as mentioned above.



Almandine’s Gemological properties:

Moh’s scale hardness – 6.5-7.5

Toughness – Fair to good, they are durable for all styles of jewelry, but should not be subjected to rough wear or hard blows.  (That goes for ALL your jewelry, y’all!)

Cleavage – Indistinct or none (my research turned up both)

Stability – Stable to light exposure; do not steam clean them as extreme heat or extreme temperature fluctuations can cause the gem to fracture.  Exposure to harsh chemicals can cause corrosion.

Care: While you can use an Ultrasonic cleaner, always take caution while doing so.  The best way to clean them is with a soft cloth or soft brush (if needed) with warm water and a mild soap.  Rinse thoroughly with room-temperature or warm water to make sure all soap is rinsed off.

That’s all for this week, I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you would like my list of references, please don’t hesitate to ask!  Feel free to comment and ask questions and I will reply as quickly as I can!  Thanks for taking time out of your day to read this and I’ll see you next week, have a great weekend!