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How (and why) to wear garnet, the January birthstone

With more than 20 varieties and a colour palette resembling a macaroon counter, this ancient talisman has a special significance in Indian astrology. Know more about the scintillating garnet gemstone, the birthstone for January babies.

“The garnet is a red gem, but not like the ruby, its red is much more like that of a flame. If correctly cut and polished, it will reveal all its beauty and perfection,”Aristotle.

The Greek philosopher wasn’t the only one to be seduced by the fire of the garnet gemstone. More than 2000 years ago, it was highly coveted by the Egyptians, Romans, and Chinese. From symbolizing the blood of Christ or lighting up Noah’s ark, it starred in many myths. The name ‘garnet’ itself originated from a Greek love story. Hades, the God of the Underworld gave pomegranate seeds – ‘garantus’ – to Persephone, the Goddess of Sunshine before she returned to Earth, signifying a emotional bridge between separated lovers. If you need a visual snapshot of garnet gemstones, just take a look at the bright red seeds of the pomegranate.

The Spectacular Garnet Family

While reds – abundantly mined in India – are the most commonly recognized garnets, the gemstone is actually found in a lush rainbow of colours, from raspberry pink and orange to greenish-yellow. In the ‘over the counter’ brown to red spectrum, the most coveted varieties are Pyrope, Almandine, and Malenite. However, the most expensive garnets in the world are the rare greens – Tsavorite from Africa, and the dazzling Demantoid and Uvarovite varieties from Russia. If you really want to chase a one-of-its-kind garnet gemstones, you might want to book tickets to Madagascar where limited quantities of rocks from Bekily (mine) change colour, a quality that’s more associated with the alexandrite gemstone mined in the same continent. This mesmerising garnet appears greenish-yellow in daylight and an intense pink under incandescent light.

Get your Cabs On

Whether you’re born in January or not, garnets should feature in your jewellery wardrobe, not in the least because of their versatility and the easily-available variety of ‘neutral-earthy’ colours. A faceted garnet set in a simple ring or floral pendant surrounded by diamonds remain a classic for your work wardrobe. Garnets also make for scene-stealers in your party ensembles. Large tumbled bead necklaces or cabochons set in statement danglers will set you apart from the emeralds and diamonds drippings. A gender-neutral brown-red shade of massive cabochons makes them great candidates for setting in statement brooches and XXL necklaces.

Cinnamon-coloured Rebel

The most (in)famous garnet variety in India is the cinnamon and honey-hued Hessonite Garnet or gomed, one of the nine navratnas. It corresponds to Rahu – the mystical, shadow planet associated with Lord Shiva and the sun sign Aquarius – a dreaded troublemaker, the potentially darker side of the intellect. Wearing a hessonite garnet is said to neutralize the disruptive shenanigans of Rahu. But just like his best buddy Shani (Saturn), Rahu is saddled with an unnecessarily fearsome interpretation.

Wherever he’s placed in your horoscope , whether in the third house (family) or the seventh house (partnerships), he denotes your most difficult karmic lesson. Even a regular red garnet corresponds to Aries, the original rebel. So, for all the January babies who are ambitious Capricorns or futuristic Aquarians, a hessonite/garnet might just add a personal touch to your difficult yet rewarding spiritual journey.

Aparna Pednekar

A freelance travel journalist, gemologist and jewellery designer with a weakness for solitary road trips, big cats, emeralds and aquamarine.