Many people think of garnets as simply red, but garnets are a group of related minerals that form gemstones of nearly every color in the rainbow. To learn how to buy a garnet, and garnet jewelry, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) suggests asking your local jeweler to show you different color garnets side by side. You can evaluate these garnets by using the same standards the GIA applies to diamonds: The 4Cs – Color, Clarity, Carat Weight, and Cut.
It helps to know the range of color for each mineral species in the garnet family. Pyrope and almandine range from purplish red to orangy red. Spessartine comes in orange colors, while andradite comes in yellow to green. Grossular garnet ranges from colorless to yellow to orangy-red, and also includes a strong, vibrant green.
Confused? Request your jeweler to show you pieces in rhodolite (red), tsavorite (green), and one of the orange varieties. In addition to the most popular colors, garnets come in some unusual color variations “outside the box.” These gems, including purplish-pink garnets, can offer good value and unusual beauty.
According to the GIA, a garnet’s clarity usually depends on its species. For example, the red garnets (almandine, pyrope, and rhodolite) typically do not have inclusions (flaws) that are visible to the eye. Some orange garnets (spessartine and hessonite) can sometimes have visible inclusions, while demantoid can show inclusions called horsetails that actually raise their value.
Garnets can be found in all sizes. Fine green demantoid and tsavorite garnets are rarer in large sizes, so their value goes up significantly. Red garnets are far more common in larger sizes, so there’s no significant price rise as the size increases.
Many garnets, especially red garnets, are easily cut into standard shapes and sizes to facilitate jewelry setting. This is one of the reasons you see more red garnet jewelry than any other color. More expensive garnets like tsavorite are cut into shapes that allow more weight to be obtained from the rough stone.
The GIA recommends that no matter which size you choose, don’t compromise on a garnet’s cut. The quality of the cut determines the brilliance your garnet delivers. It should sparkle throughout, reflecting light across the entire gem.
The Choice Is Yours
As Valentine’s Day approaches, you may have your heart set on red garnet jewelry—a perfect gift for someone you love, or for yourself. While you’re shopping (or dropping hints), consider alternative garnet colors to expand your jewelry wardrobe…you’ll be glad you did.
Happy Birthday to all our January-born jewelry lovers!
Source: Adapted from articles by the GIA, gia.edu