The January Birthstone - Garnet Jewelry!

Bright red juicy garnet is one of my absolute favorite stones to make jewelry with - and it just happens to be the January birthstone! But what is a birthstone and why do we wear birthstone jewelry? 

A hand wearing four red garnet birthstone rings


History of Birthstones 

A woman wearing a red garnet necklace and garnet birthstone rings. If you really want to dig deep, the origins of birthstones could be traced back to biblical times, to the Book of Exodus. Therein was described a breastplate worn by the high priest of the Israelites that was adorned with 12 stones that contained magical powers.  Later on, ancient historians began connecting the 12 stones of the biblical breastplate with the 12 months of the year and the 12 zodiac signs. It was trendy at that point to own items that contained all twelve stones. Later on the custom was to wear a certain stone in a certain month when that stone's powers would be heightened. Finally, in about the 16th century, the trend evolved into wearing one's own birthstone all the time. But birthstones were not just a biblical invention! There were also birthstones in ancient Hindu traditions. The modern birthstone list was first standardized by the National Association of Jewelers in 1912 and that is the list that we are familiar with today. 

Garnet: The January Birthstone

While garnet traditionally brings the color red to mind, garnet can come in red, brown, pink, peach, orange, yellow, and even blue and green! There are several different 'species' of garnet, all categorized by the same crystalline structure and chemical properties, but with a wide range of different colors. Most commonly known types of garnet are actually blends of these different species of garnet and that blend produces their signature colors. Garnet has a Moh's hardness of 6.5-7.5, depending on the type of garnet. 

A hessonite garnet ring in sterling silver
Garnet has been worn as jewelry for at least 5000 years! Garnet jewelry has been found in the burials of ancient Egyptian pharaohs, and it was a favorite of ancient Rome. The word "garnet" comes from the Latin word granatus for seed or grain, most likely a reference to pomegranate seeds.

Metaphysical Properties

In many cultures the garnet is commonly associated with protection. It was believed that garnets could shield the wearer from harm - Celtic kings would wear garnets as protective talismans. Queen Victoria and Mary Queen of Scots famously wore garnets. Warriors on both sides of the Crusades wore garnets for protection, and even biblical King Solomon wore garnets into battle.

Garnet has also long been associated with the heart, blood, and life force. It is the traditional gift for a second wedding anniversary. It is thought to protect against melancholy, protect the body, awaken blood/passion, and is generally associated with love and friendship. 

It is no wonder garnet is a popular stone for jewelry! You can find some of my own Silverthaw Jewelry designs using garnet below:




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