Garnet Jewellery Throughout History
Words by Beata Sinclair
If you have ever held a piece of garnet jewellery, I’m sure you were captivated by the magnificent, deep red stone. How could you not be? Garnet has mesmerised people since the dawn of time.
Let me take you on a short walk through the centuries as we discover more about this beautiful gem and how it went from an unattainable luxury owned only by royalty and Pharaohs, to the most fashionable statement on every lady's outfit throughout the 19th century.
The Ancient World
Our journey begins in Ancient Egypt, where garnet jewellery may have originated. It is said that red garnet necklaces adorned the necks of the Pharaohs and were also found in the tombs of wealthy Egyptians who took garnets with them into the afterlife as prized possessions.
The Ancient Romans wore carved garnet rings that they used to stamp wax seals on their documents and correspondence.
The Ancient Greeks called garnets “nuktalopos” – which roughly translates to "lamp stone" as they believed that carrying garnet with them gave them better sight at night. We cannot confirm that this feature of garnets exists.
Did you know that in the first century AD red garnets were among the most widely traded gems?
In medieval times, only the noblemen and clergy were allowed to wear red. Needless to say, garnet was off limits to the common folk, but then they would not have been able to afford it anyway! During this period, precious and semi-precious stones were worn as talismans to ward off disease and bad luck, and to attract good fortune. Garnet was believed to help with endurance, strength, and to dispel sadness… but only if you were noblemen, clergy, or royalty; otherwise bad luck for you.
To this point, garnet was extremely prized and not easily available to the common person. That changed with the discovery of the garnet deposits in Bohemia (today Czechoslovakia) in the 16th century. The popularity of garnet jewellery didn’t reach its peak however until the late 19th century. Victorian ladies LOVED garnet and, thanks to them, today we can admire some of the most beautiful Victorian garnet jewellery.
Which brings us to modern times.
Here at The Antique Guild we are extremely lucky to have an exquisite collection of antique garnet pieces, including; charming earrings, elegant bracelets, and striking brooches.
Care to have look?
Go to our IG page to see a small selection or call in for private appointment. It would be our absolute pleasure to show off our garnet treasures to you!
Little sidenote for the caring husband: garnet is the birthstone for January and also represents the second wedding anniversary. You are welcome.