Garnet – the January Birthstone
Although we are most familiar with red garnets, our lucky January babies have a wide range of colours to choose from.
Garnets may come in any colour except blue – possibly just as well given that we have seen so many blues in December’s trilogy of tanzanite, turquoise and zircon!
The name stems from the Latin name for a pomegranate – Granatum. This is supposedly because of the resemblance garnet bears to the seeds of that fruit. The deep, pinkish to brownish red of a pyrope or almandine garnet reminds us of the origins of this name.
Given that garnets bear the qualities of regeneration and renewed energy, imbued with positive thoughts which increase commitment, honesty, hope and faith; it is no wonder that this birthstone was selected for the month of January – the opening of the New Year.
In this vein, the birthstone verse for January runs:
“No gems save garnets should be worn
By her who in this month is born;
They will insure her constancy,
True friendship and fidelity.
The gleaming garnet holds within its sway
Faith, constancy, and truth to one alway.”*
Globally we have seen so very many issues arising throughout 2016. War, political chaos, terrorism and death have become daily headlines. As a New Year beckons, there could be no more appropriate stone than the garnet. For years it has been used to overcome crisis and trauma and to impart inner strength and courage to the wearer.
According to Pliny in chapter 25 of his Natural History of Precious Stones, drinking vessels were hollowed out of ‘Carbuncles’ of India – what we assume now to be almandine garnets. Drinking from a cup of garnet would take advantage of these mystical properties of that gemstone.
An example of one such vessel is in the New York Met Museum, dating from the late 16th Century. This example measures a mere 3cm x 6.4cm. Pliny spoke of “vessels that will hold as much as one sextarius” - what we would now consider to be a pint!
Kunz gives another reason for the use of the garnet cup – that “if water were poured into a vessel made of a reddish stone, the liquid would appear like wine, and could… be drunk with impunity”.** A cunning strategy to avoid a nasty hangover in the New Year…
To that end, let us put 2016 behind us and walk into 2017 with courage, faith, love and hope… with a garnet or two to back us up in case we falter!
From all of us at ShinyPrettyThings, we wish all of you a very Happy New Year. May it bring you all the joy, happiness and sparkles you could wish for.
* Quotation from George Frederick Kunz’s The Curious Lore of Precious Stones pg 327
** IBID, pg 59.