Natural vs. Synthetic Garnet
When you think of garnets, you probably picture a dark, richly-hued red stone. But did you know that garnets come in a variety of other colors as well? In fact, some colors are very rare and valuable, like the green Tsavorite garnet.
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What are Garnets?
Garnets are a group of silicate minerals that have been used since the Bronze Age as gemstones and for abrasive purposes. You know garnets for their deep, red hues, but they’re also available in other colors (orange, brown, yellow, pink, green, blue, and colorless). Garnets in peach, green, colorless, and blue are more rare.
In addition to their beauty, these stones are popular for their durability and hardness. On the Mohs scale, this gemstone scores 6.5 to 7.5.
The name garnet comes from the Latin word granatum, which means grain or seed, like the deep red seeds of a pomegranate that the gemstones resemble. This popular stone has awed people for thousands of years. Red garnet necklaces adorned the pharaohs of Egypt and ancient Romans used carved garnets as seals to protect important documents. In the Middle Ages, the gemstone was used as a means to cure depression. Some groups viewed the stones as a talisman against evil, disaster, wounds, poisons, and bad dreams.
The name garnet comes from the Latin word granatum, which means grain or seed, like the deep red seeds of a pomegranate that the gemstones resemble. This popular stone has awed people for thousands of years. Red garnet necklaces adorned the pharaohs of Egypt and ancient Romans used carved garnets as seals to protect important documents. In the Middle Ages, the gemstone was used a as a means to cure depression. Some groups viewed the stones as a talisman against evil, disaster, wounds, poisons, and bad dreams.
Where are Garnets Mined?
Garnets are found in many places throughout the world, including Brazil, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Russia, US, and China. Different locations produce varying stone colors. For example, Sri Lanka is known for rhodolite garnet, the common deep reddish purple variety.
What Makes Garnets Special?
In addition to their unique color, garnets are also the January birthstone. You’ll often see deep red garnets as the birthstone, but you now know that garnets come in all sorts of stunning colors.
The intense hues and variety of color options continue to draw in people, so you’ll see garnets in all types of fine jewelry. Garnets of all colors are popular for engagement rings, and you’ll also see them in rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, etc.
Synthetic garnets are man-made in a laboratory and have the same chemical, structure, and optical qualities as natural garnets. Lab-created garnets use a method called flame fusion. This process involves dropping powdered chemicals through a high-temperature flame, where it melts and falls onto a rotating pedestal to produce a synthetic crystal.
Natural Garnet vs. Synthetic Garnet – What’s the Difference?
The major difference between a natural and a synthetic garnet is where the garnet is made. A natural garnet is earth made while a synthetic garnet is lab made. Natural stones take millions of years to form while lab-created garnets can be created quicker. Like most synthetic gemstones, they have the name physical and chemical properties as natural garnets. They are made in such a way that they look like natural gemstones. They’ll have the same hardness, density, and appearance of a natural garnet.
How Can You Tell the Difference Between Natural and Synthetic Garnet?
You have a few options to tell the difference between natural and synthetic garnets, including examining the hue, checking for impurities, and looking at the brilliance:
- Examining the hue: Garnets have dense, saturated hues, so take a closer look at the stone’s color richness. If it is lighter, brighter or more vivid, then it could be synthetic.
- Checking for impurities: Garnet’s clarity depends on the type because some varieties naturally have more inclusions than others. For example, most red garnets are typically eye-clean, except the Almandine garnet that has asbestos fiber inclusions to give it a star-like effect. Similarly, orange garnets commonly have plenty of inclusions. If you’re looking at a red garnet that has too many inclusions or an orange garnet with very few, the stone could be a fake.
- Looking at the brilliance: Garnets have unforgettable brilliance, so examine the stone carefully. Hold the stone up to a distant light source (like a lamp) and look through it closely. You should be able to see the light being reflected off the inner walls of the stone. You can also tip the stone on its axis and look through it up to a distant light source. You should be able to see a visible rainbow pattern. If you are unable to see any reflections in your garnet, the gem could be an imitation.
Caring for Your Garnet Jewelry
Clean garnet jewelry with warm, sudsy water and a microfiber or other soft cloth. It’s recommended to closely examine your jewelry or take it to a professional jeweler periodically for a thorough cleaning and inspection (it’s proactive to have the prongs looked at to make sure your stone is secure). Here are some additional suggestions to care for your jewelry:
- Avoid exposing your gemstone to extreme heat.
- Do not use steam or ultrasonic treatments for cleaning.
- Protect your jewelry from chemicals and harsh blows by removing jewelry if you’re cleaning, gardening, exercising, etc.
Store jewelry in a fabric-lined box to avoid scratches.
Is garnet a precious stone?
Gemstones that are not a diamond, ruby, emerald, or sapphire are called semi-precious gemstones. Calling a gemstone semi-precious does not mean it is less valuable than precious gemstones. Instead, semi-precious gemstones are typically more abundant.
Are natural garnets expensive?
You can find garnets in all types and colors, so the prices vary as well. The more rare varieties, like Tsavorite, are more expensive than other garnet varieties.
What color garnet is best?
A garnet color is an important factor in its quality. The deep red garnets are the most popular and abundant. You can also find stones available in other colors, such as orange, brown, yellow, pink, green, blue, and colorless. Garnets in peach, green, colorless, and blue are more rare. All types of garnets look amazing in rings and necklaces, and are great for birthstone jewelry if your loved one is born in January.
How to check if my garnet is real?
You can identify real garnets by saturated colors, and the presence of inclusions. If you look closely at a garnet, such as with a jeweler’s loupe or a microscope, and you don’t see any inclusions, it’s likely not real.