Known for its rich red hues and renowned beauty, garnets have been considered a prize possession since the Bronze Age. In fact, the oldest dating garnet was found on a man who was buried in 3000 B.C. Although the stone’s significance and perceived meaning has changed throughout the centuries, the allure of garnet has remained the same.
Named from the Latin word “garanatus” which means “seed like,” garnet is said to resemble the tiny red seeds of a pomegranate. Due to the remarkable color of the stone, garnet was appreciated and utilized in both Eastern and Western society. Although garnet is solely used for jewelry and aesthetic purposes in modern society, that wasn’t always the case. During the Middle Ages, garnet was used as a cure for the Black Plague. The stone was also believed to prevent arguments, ensure faithfulness and warn the wearer of approaching danger by changing colors. However, medieval Europeans weren’t the first civilization to believe that garnet held power.
According to Ancient Greek mythology, Hades captured Persephone, the daughter of Zeus, and brought her to the underworld. Before releasing her, the god of the underworld wanted to ensure her return. In order to do so, he gave her pomegranate seeds as a way to guarantee her return. Because of this ancient myth, garnet, the gemstone named after the pomegranate seeds, became associated with the promise of a safe return. As a result, friends would gift garnets to one another upon departure in order to ensure they would meet again. However, the pomegranate is also historically known as the symbol of the womb, and garnet has historically been associated with women and feminine life force as well. In fact, some scholars believe that Hades’s gift of pomegranate seeds actually backfired and protected Persephone instead.
Today, garnet is known as the official birthstone of January. Although the stone is no longer gifted to ensure a safe return, it is used as a symbol of love and continued happiness. In fact, garnet is known as the gift for both the second and sixth wedding anniversary. In addition, garnet’s modern day powers are said to include healing, strength and protection.
Historically, the Czech Republic was the world’s largest garnet source. Today, the stone can be found on numerous continents around the world. As a result, it is a beloved stone and often-treasured piece of jewelry.