Garnet is not one single gemstone but a family of gemstones with very similar characteristics. While deep red garnets are the most familiar, lovers of fine jewels know that garnets offer their admirers a variety of colors, vivid oranges, compelling purples, sparkling greens, etc... with blue being the rarest – and completely unknown until 1990!
Each type of stone in the garnet gem family exudes slightly different features while demonstrating the core garnet qualities of luxurious luster, medium to dark tones, and deep translucence. It will help to briefly consider the most valuable types of garnet and each one’s unique contribution to the family.
Pyrope garnets are bright medium red to dark brick red. These are most common of these jewels, the quintessential garnet. Their hardness is a key reason they are sought out for use in fine jewelry.
Rhodolite is reddish purple with hues of pink and is named for the Rhododendron flowers they resemble in color. Hessonite is golden yellow to yellow-brown and is especially sought after by collectors in a rich cinnamon color. Demantoid (meaning diamond-like) garnet is a vibrant medium green, and only a small supply are mined each year in Russia, its main source. They are sought for their clarity, lovely color and the way they radiantly disperse light. Demantoid garnets are the lucky find in many exquisite Art Deco pieces or even Faberge eggs. Tsavorite, another green garnet, is a gorgeous choice for hunter greens through light pastel greens. Blue garnets feature a rich tone between sky blue and navy blue, and are extremely hard to find and very expensive due to their rarity. Color change garnets are very unique gems in the family. They are extremely rare and exhibit the inimitable quality of changing color, say from vivid blue-greens or vibrant purples to blood red or purple-red in candlelight. It is no wonder they are often the centerpiece stone of an exquisite ring or pendant.
How to Grade Garnets
The grading for garnets is more subjective and diverse because of their range of colors. The hue of the primary color is important. Rich or deep colors are more valuable than pale coloring. Clarity is essential as well, with the better stones being eye clean, that is having no visible inclusions to the unaided eye. Stones of poorer quality can be hazy or included. Most garnets have inclusions when viewed with a magnifier, but that shouldn't detract from your enjoyment of them in a fine piece of jewelry. Many inexpensive garnets are poorly cut or polished and this will significantly affect not only their beauty, but their value as well. A fine, finely made gem is very rare and deserves the value we place on it.