Second Year Anniversary Gift Guide: Garnet Jewelry
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The second year wedding anniversary is not one that often gets much attention - but it should! By this time, you and your significant other have successfully intermingled your lives and are forging ahead with unified plans for the future. As you have now settled into a rhythm of daily life, this is a perfect time to give your partner a second anniversary gift that reminds them how much you love and appreciate their companionship.
The traditional gemstone gift for a second-year anniversary gift is the garnet. This is a marvelously versatile gemstone that makes for a wonderful addition to any jewelry box. Representing, passion, love, commitment, and friendship. Your significant other, regardless of their age, gender, or style, will treasure a gift of garnets for years to come. Additionally, a gift of garnets may be especially meaningful to those born in January, the month whose gemstone is the garnet.
What are Garnets?
Garnets are among the first gemstones to be worn as adornments with the earliest jewelry discovered dating back more than 5000 years. With a Mohs Hardness score of 6.5-7.5 depending on the variety, garnets are durable enough to be worn and shown off every day. Known for its saturated hues, there is an abundance of different varieties which express a number of body colors. It is slight variations in the chemical makeup of individual gems which determines their ultimate color expression.
All totaled, there are more than 20 species of garnet, but only a few of these are considered gem-quality. Interestingly, garnets are almost never purely one variety. Rather, they often combine with each other to produce a full rainbow spectrum of possible hues. Of the types that are used in jewelry, here are the names of some of the most popular species and varieties that you are likely to encounter when shopping for a second wedding anniversary gift.
- Tsavorite garnets originally found in the Tsavo National Park in Kenya were given their name by Tiffany & Company in 1974 as they first introduced the gem to their US customer base. Tsavorites, a variety of the green grossular garnet group, can achieve beautiful and powerful hues that some say rival the famous color of emeralds. They also may have a bright yellow component in their body color which makes even the smallest stones pop, especially when set in yellow gold. Unfortunately, tsavorites are rare gems that are very selective about the conditions they will grow in. Thus, faceted stones weighing over three carats are an unusual find and large gems with good color expression can be highly valued.
- Demantoid is another rare green variety of garnet which may show some yellow undertones. Its name means "diamond-like" because, while its green hue is an exceptionally rare body color for diamonds, its' property of dispersion - the ability to split and reflect white light as multi-colored flashes - is actually better than diamonds! These gems break the mold of what is conventionally considered desirable as the best of them contain large, eye-visible bundles of fibers called "horsetails" which can fill the interior of the crystal. Prized since their discovery in the Ural Mountains of Russia in 1868, demantoids are a rare and valuable garnet variety. The imperial jeweler Faberge famously created beautiful demantoid creations. However, this type of garnet is a bit softer than most other types, so jewelry should be worn with care.
- Rhodolite is a garnet whose body color may be reddish purple or purplish red. Its name is a combination of the Greek words rhodon, meaning "rose", and lithos, meaning "stone". While rhodolite garnets technically have a particular chemical makeup, many in the trade identify any predominantly purple garnet as a rhodolite. Happily, the supply of rhodolite garnets is both stable and plentiful, and they are one of the best-selling of all garnet varieties.
- Almandine garnets are closely related to rhodolites on a chemical level, but they contain higher concentrations of iron which cause the gems to express a dominant purple hue that is mixed with red. Named for the ancient Asian city Alabanda, the Ancient Romans particularly favored these especially strong garnets. Today, it is said that almandine garnets are the most commonly found of all possible garnet varieties and are mined in many countries.
- Spessartine is a vivid orange garnet that is highly distinctive, but, like many predominantly orange-tinted gems, is also relatively scarce. Their lively color may include red, yellow, or brown and it is not unusual to find gems weighing up to ten carats. Named for the German district Spessart, spessartine garnets may be a little more expensive than the more abundant red garnets. Note that some vendors may refer to spessartine garnets as spessartite.
- Pyrope garnets are predominately red gems that were extremely popular in the Victorian era thanks to an abundant deposit in the modern-day Czech Republic which produced stones often called Bohemian garnets. The ancient Greeks and Romans also greatly favored this gem and the name "pyrope" comes from the Greek word pyropos, which means "fiery-eyed". Most of the material being recovered today yields faceted stones weighing under two carats.
- Malaya garnets, alternatively known as umbalite, are a combination of spessartine and pyrope garnet types. Discovered in the 1960s in the Umba River Valley of East Africa, they are newcomers to the market. Malaya gems show mixtures of pink, yellow, orange and red hues. Also, some Malaya garnets express a rare, naturally occurring color-change effect which allows the gem to express entirely different body colors under incandescent versus fluorescent lighting conditions.
Garnets are one of the most abundant gemstones on the planet, with fruitful sources located on each and every continent. Most material is dominantly red or purple while orange and green gems tend to be harder to find. There are even some exceptionally rare blue gems. The best garnets seem to glow with an inner light.
The word "garnet" comes from the Latin term granatus, a word meaning "pomegranate", referencing the red color of many varieties. Thanks to the wide availability of the gem and the fact that people have valued its beauty for so long, it has come to carry significant symbolic meaning. As mentioned above, garnets are associated with close interpersonal connections. Thought to boost passion and understanding between partners, they are also affiliated with the enduring power of life force and credited with stabilizing the mood of their wearer.
Garnets are mentioned multiple times in Biblical literature. For instance, there was a garnet set in the breastplate of the high priest and Noah was said to have mounted a glowing garnet on his ship to illuminate the surrounding waters.
Historically, red garnets in particular were proudly worn in ancient Egypt by the pharaohs, both living and dead. Understanding the superior durability of garnets, while also appreciating their beauty, the ancient Romans came up with a practical use for the gem. Familial or official seals were carved into the face of polished garnets and set in signet rings. More than just ornamental jewelry, these garnet rings were pressed into wax to seal or mark official documents and other types of correspondence.
More recently, red garnets were an especially popular gem during the Middle Ages following a discovery of a new bountiful European deposit around the turn of the sixteenth century. Rulers, both secular and religious, prized red garnet jewelry. Just a few centuries later, the popularity of garnets experienced a resurgence during the Victorian era when red garnets from Bohemia were set in all types of jewelry.
Garnet Jewelry Guide
Throughout history, garnets have been proudly worn by anyone who could afford them. As such, they can be fantastic gifts for anyone commemorating a second-year wedding anniversary. Another boon of garnet jewelry is that you can find pieces at many price points, so you are sure to find something perfect for your partner. Below are just a few of the many ways garnets are used in jewelry.
Of all the types of jewelry, rings are perhaps most at risk of accidental damage by impact or exposure to household chemicals. Fortunately, most garnets are durable enough to be worn regularly. Traditional garnet signet rings like the ancient Romans used are a classic and timeless gift. Also, richly colored garnets are easily paired with other colored gemstones to create unique and exciting multicolored pieces.
Garnet necklaces are the perfect final touch to any outfit! Here are a few fancy and casual examples that are suitable for any occasion.
As there are so many garnets on the market for designers and artists to use, you can easily find pieces with multiple stones that are well-matched in both size and color.
Thanks to saturated hues, even the most delicate garnet earrings can be standout accessories.
Garnet Cuff Links
Cuff links are a classic accessory that can be worn by anyone to add a professional edge to their outfit.
Emily Frontiere is a GIA Graduate Gemologist. She is particularly experienced working with estate/antique jewelry.
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