The first month of the new year brings with it a birthstone that proves something we learned watching Downton Abbey — if you are both beautiful and durable, you’ll have a much better chance of success in this world. When we say “garnet,” a word derived from the latin granatus, meaning seed (so named, it is thought, due to the stone’s resemblance to the pomegranate seed), we’re actually referring to six different types of stones similar in composition and structure: pyrope, spessartine, grossular, uvarovite, almandine, and andradite. Though what we call a garnet can come in almost any color, including a very rare blue that was only discovered 25 years ago (!), the stone is most commonly found in shades of red that vary from burgundy to brown-red to vibrant claret to a particularly saucy orange-tinted vermillion. A turn in the light might reveal crimson sparks inside a sanguine stone. The rarer Tsavorite garnets, a grossular variety, come in a green so vibrant it’s rivaled only by an oak tree’s leaves after a summer thunderstorm.
Unsurprisingly, the robustness and color variety of this extraordinary gem resulted in its use across the globe, throughout history, in both adornment and functionality. During the Middle ages, garnet was said to be made of a dragon’s eye. Folks believed wearing garnet (and, let’s be honest, basically any other gem) would protect them from poisoning… and maybe also bad storms — it was also thought to be the light that guided Noah’s Ark through the flood. Recently unearthed Roman sites feature incredible garnet-inlaid jewelry, both an example of early craftsmanship and globalization: Scholars were able to determine the gems originated in India and were transported along the Silk Road, early trade routes connecting Asia and Europe. The garnet’s enviable durability allows it to survive where other stones falter.
If you can’t tell, we adore this sensational stone. It’s powerful and beautiful and has got great party stories. And it’s the perfect birthstone for January: Once the last sparks of the New Year’s fireworks fade from the midnight winter sky, it will be the torch that lights the way.
We’ve gathered an appealing array of beauties that can be shipped straight to your door…