The pomegranate is rich in meaning and significance. For example, according to the Bible, the stone lit the way for Noah’s ark, and rings with the garnet protected crusaders from deadly wounds and poisons. The stories about this stone convince even the most skeptical people of its “passionate nature. But here we will look at the physical properties, types and history of the most famous garnet, the Bohemian garnet.
Physical properties of garnets
Garnet is a quite resistant to damage and temperature. Its Mohs hardness is 6.5 to 7.5.
The shape of the stones’ crystals reminds one of a garnet’s grains. Hence its name, which in Latin means “granatus”.
Garnets usually contain a lot of inclusions, i.e. fragments of other rocks and minerals.
Types of garnets
A garnet is associated with stones that have a deep red hue. But they come in many different varieties:
- Pyrope – that Bohemian garnet. Its color is red, often with a brown hue.
- There is a pinkish-red variety of pyrope called rhodolite. This is a mixed crystal of pyrope and almandine.
- Almandine is red, often with a purple hue.
- Spessartine is orange to red-brown in color.
- Grossular – a group of garnets that are colorless, green, yellow, and brown:
- Hessonite – brown
- Leucogranate – colorless
- Cathoite – also known as hydrogrossular. Opaque, the hue depends on the impurities.
- Tsavorite (tsavorite) – shades from green to emerald.
- Andradite is a group of dark-colored garnets:
- Demantoid, from green to emerald. The most precious garnet.
- Melanite is opaque black.
- Topazolite – transparent, yellow to lemon color.
- Rainbow garnet – has an opalescent shimmer.
- Uvarovite – emerald green, brushed, not crystal.
Most garnets are mined in the United States, India, Brazil and Sri Lanka. The best almandines come from Mozambique, India and Brazil, and demantoids from the Urals.
In past centuries, several species have been found in Germany, Canada, Tanzania, Russia and Kenya. And one of the most interesting finds occurred in Bohemia in the 1850s. We will tell you more about it.
Bohemian garnets are so called primarily because of the place of extraction – Bohemia – a region in Central Europe on the territory of modern-day Bohemia.
However, the term can also refer to products that repeat the classic features of Bohemian:
- small crystal size
- rose cut
- Tight fit (to show as little metal as possible)
The tradition of working with garnets has been established in Bohemia since the Middle Ages. The country was rich in precious metals and stones. This created ideal conditions for the development of jewelry making. Also at the end of the 16th century Emperor Rudolph II supported cutters and had the right of preferential purchase of especially big garnets.
It was the Czech craftsmen who discovered a number of secrets in working with garnet in order to display them at their best. For instance, black garnets, whose color showed through the light, were cut in cabochon and a recess was made in the back side. To reflect the light, the stones were given a silver plate. The cut most suitable for the garnets was the star-cut. It created the effect of a starburst deep within the mineral.
In 1762 Maria Theresia issued a decree forbidding the export of raw garnets. Thus the raw material base and craftsmen were concentrated in one place. It was a profitable economic move, as the jewelry pieces were the end product to be sold, which was much more expensive than the rough stones.
The heyday in the jewelry production with garnets was in the 19th century. The 1870s are especially noted for the fact that jewelers turned to the Renaissance style. During this period, large pyrope cabochons were set in a setting with hollowed enamel and enhanced with other gems such as diamond or chrysolite. The rich, bright color of the garnet perfectly highlighted the bold and expressive bracelets, brooches and necklaces.
Garnet jewelry of that period acquired a canonical style which is reproduced even today. I am talking about the jewelry pieces with the scattering of stones of different sizes, tight fitting, minimalistic setting and the characteristic rose cut.
A crystal in this cut consists of a flat base and a hemisphere with 24 properly placed triangular facets. The invention of this cut is ascribed to Cardinal Mazarin, the first minister of France in the mid-17th century. But it is possible that it first appeared in India, and was brought to Europe by Venetian merchants.
Czech garnets are also often found in the form of a rosette, which is essentially a double-cut rose.
The center of garnet jewelry in Bohemia was and remains the town of Turnov. Lapidary workshops have been working here since the 17th century. It was then that Italian merchants and jewellers migrated to Turnov from Venice.
The first European school of jewellery making was founded there in 1883. It was opened by Josef Malina, a sculptor, graduate of the Vienna school of applied arts. In 1885 the jewellery engraving program was added to the educational program. In the course of time jewellery design, smithing and artistic restoration were taught there.
The Czech garnet remains a source of pride and a symbol of the Czech Republic.