art by Rachel Anderson


One glance at the deep red seeds nestled inside of a pomegranate fruit explains why the word "garnet" comes from the Latin word "granatus," meaning "grain" or "seed." This name was given to the garnet because of its close resemblance to the succulent pomegranate seed. But don't bite into a garnet, because at Moh's hardness 6.5 to 7.5, it will definitely damage the teeth!

There are many myths and legends surrounding the garnet. One Biblical legend is that Noah hung this gem on the ark to light his way through the dark and stormy nights of God's wrath. A Greek myth linked to the garnet is the story of the young goddess of sunshine, Persephone, who was abducted by Hades, god of the underworld. Hades eventually released Persephone, but not before he offered her some pomegranate seeds, which guaranteed her return to him.

Archaeologist findings of primitive style garnet jewelry among the graves of lake dwellers dates the early use of this gemstone to the Bronze age. But not all garnet is of gem quality. It is also a very effective abrasive and is used commercially for grinding and polishing. Garnet coated sandpaper is one such industrial use.

Garnets have always been extensively used throughout the East and amongst the Greeks and Romans. The Romans frequently using them for engraving, several fine specimens of Imperial portraits, including those of the meperors, having come down to us in this way. In India and throughout the far east it was known as an Amulet against poison and the plague, worn to attract health and cheerfulness, and as a protection against lightning.

During the Middle Ages it was used as a remedy for the plague, or the Black Death, and inflammatory diseases. Garnets were also worn to confer constancy, fidelity, and cheerfulness to its rightful wearers, but was said to cause discord amongst those having no right to it by birth. Like the Ruby, the garnet warned its owner of approaching danger and trouble by changing its colour, and was much in vogue at one time as a keepsake between friends at parting.

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