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History and lore of gems - Garnet

Happy New Year!

January brings us the garnet - one of my personal favorites.

Clockwise from top: Waxed linen and ceramic components White Clover Kiln. Dark clay discs -Marsha Neal Studio. Enamel beads - Carol Myers. Enamel pomegranate and ceramic sculptural pieces - yours truly. 

 I started out doing the research I usually do - the famous gems, the mining locations, the folklore dating back to ancient times. Then I paused....

And decided to show you garnets from those ancient times. Ancient jewelry has always fascinated me. Materials used, cultural and historical context of pieces, uses and meaning of personal adornments. Jewelry was worn through out history and time, yet carries such meaning with each style and time period....

Bottle/Amulet with garnet and chrysocolla. 2nd-3rd century BC

Roman ring - garnet and bronze. Garnet intaglio depicts Minerva. 1st Century AD. 

Roman earrings, gold, glass, garnets. Circa 2nd-3rd century AD. (www.elogedelart.canalblog.com)

Gold and garnet pin, intaglio carving of Winged Nike/Victory. Roman, Imperial period. ( www.vroma.org)
Late Roman gold and garnet ring. Circa 4th century AD. ( www.christies.com)
Eastern Roman gold and garnet earrings. circa 2nd century AD (www.christies.com)

The Canterbury pendant featuring inlaid "cloisonne" garnet.  Anglo Saxon, early 7th century AD. (www.gold.org)

Gold sword fitting, inlaid with garnets. From the Staffordshire Hoard, Anglo-Saxon 7th-8th century AD. 
Gold scabbard boss, with garnets. The Staffordshire Hoard. 
The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork yet found. Discovered in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, England, on 5 July 2009, it consists of over 3,500 items that are nearly all martial in character and contains no objects specific to female uses.The artefacts have tentatively been dated to the 7th or 8th centuries, placing the origin of the items in the time of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia

 Whats in a name? 

garnet (n.) 
early 14c., metathesized from Old French grenat "garnet," originally an adjective, "of a dark red color," from Medieval Latin granatum, originally an adjective, "of dark red color," perhaps abstracted from pomegranate (q.v.), from the stone's resemblance either to the shape of the seeds or the color of the pulp. But perhaps the word is from Medieval Latin granum "grain," in its sense of "cochineal, red dye." (http://www.etymonline.com)

Basic Garnet info: 

  • Garnet occurs in every color except blue and most varieties are named for their color. Rhodolite is a purplish red, hessonite is the name for an orange, cinnamon, or pinkish variety. Tsavorite is the name given to dark green grossularite. Uvarovite and demantoid are also green varieties. 
  • Garnets range from a 7.0 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness and are found in the U.S. (Arizona), South Africa, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Myanmar (Burma), Scotland, Switzerland and Tanzania .  
  • Garnet's powers include healing, strength, and protection and it is often worn to relieve inflammations of the skin. It is also believed to regulate the heart and blood flow and aid in curing depression. In earlier times, garnets were exchanged as gifts between friends to demonstrate their affection for each other and to insure that they meet again.

I hope you have enjoyed this ancient sampler. I didn't even touch upon the Renaissance, the Victorian era... so much rich history. My it inspire you in the New Year!




  1. You have fantastic taste in Jewellery Jennifer, those pieces are stunning! Thanks for a great post x

  2. Ok - so not only is this an informative post - but Jenny - those pieces are amazing! I mean - talk about getting shivers and inspiration from that ancient work. Just amazing!!! Love too the meanings. Garnet is now one of my most favorite :) Thank You!!!

  3. How wonderful to see all of those lovely pieces. I had seen Roman pieces in a museum when I was young; you make me really want to get searching on the internet (so much better in close-ups). What fabulous designs with garnet. Thanks for sharing, Andrea

  4. I love garnet and the pieces you have featured are amazing - thanks for sharing.


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