Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

Garnets – January’s Birthstone

by Ann Covode

January’s birthstone garnet is one of Eve’s favorite gemstones and her birthstone as well. Red garnets have a long history, but modern gem buyers can pick from a rich palette of garnet colors: greens, oranges, pinkish oranges, deeply saturated purplish reds, but not blue. Red garnet is one of the most common and widespread of gems. But not all garnets are as abundant as the red ones. A green garnet, tsavorite, is rarer and needs rarer rock chemistries and conditions to form.

Antique Pyrope Hairpin in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History – Chip Clark, courtesy Smithsonian Institution

Thousands of years ago, red garnet necklaces adorned the necks of Egypt’s pharaohs, and were entombed with their mummified corpses as prized possessions for the afterlife. In ancient Rome, signet rings with carved garnets were used to stamp the wax that secured important documents.

The term carbuncle was often used in ancient times to refer to red garnets, although it was used for almost any red stone. Carbuncle was thought to be one of the four precious stones given to King Solomon by God. Centuries later, in Roman scholar Pliny’s time (23 to 79 AD), red garnets were among the most widely traded gems. In the Middle Ages (about 475 to 1450 AD), red garnet was favored by clergy and nobility.

Red garnet’s availability increased with the discovery of the famous Bohemian garnet deposits in central Europe around 1500. This source became the nucleus of a regional jewelry industry that reached its peak in the late 1800s. They are now exhausted.

Eve was first attracted to garnets as a young girl in France. Her parents presented her an opal heart with a halo of garnets for your 13th birthday. These were the famous Bohemian garnets from Czechoslovakia. She went to Prague with her family and learned more about the history of garnets.

Later, while studying antique jewelry methods she was challenged to make a piece resembling a pin from Charlemagne’s time with delicate walls separating shaped inlays of garnet. This mosaic like piece was difficult but Eve succeeded in mastering the design.

Eve played with multiple colors of garnets in a piece she designed a few years ago and entitled it “Darn it another garnet”. Later, when she needed a new engagement ring she employed Demantoid garnets which are green in color and scarce. She combined these with some family diamonds for an exquisite piece.

Eve’s Engagement Ring

Demantoid garnets are very rare and were found around the early 1900’s. Salamander designs with these garnets became very popular among the well-known jewelry houses. Other interesting garnets include andradite garnets with both green and yellow . Color change garnets shift from blueish purple to pink or orange.

Mt. St. Hilaire garnets are a delightful peach color and bring back many memories for Eve as she remembers visiting this delightful place near Quebec when she was a college student at McGill. This renowned gem site features a unique topography and stone varieties found nowhere else.

Mt. St. Hilaire, Quebec

In Eve’s recent collections she has created beautiful pieces with garnets. In her “Doors of Perception” pendant she features a cabochon hessonite garnet in a 14k gold bezel with 9-14k gold granules which almost suspend it in the beautiful sterling silver setting. The “Doors of Perception” are based on a design known as a Yantra in Hinduism. A Yantra is a symbolic figure. It’s world is to be protected once you cross the inner triple circle.

Eve’s “Doors of Perception” necklace

In her “Sacred Geometries” series she created this luminous “6 times 6” Hessonite garnet necklace with a 14 karat gold clasp and 6 spessartite garnets.

Eve’s “Six times Six” Necklace

Also, for the “Sacred Geometries” series she recalled ancient shapes with these “One plus two plus three” earrings in 18 karat rose gold with 2 anthill garnets and 2 garnet briolettes.

Eve’s “One plus Two plus Three” Earrings

“Vampire’s Kiss” ring with 14 karat gold and 14 karat white gold features a large garnet with 12 black diamonds and 20 small diamonds.

“Vampire’s Kiss” Ring

This beautiful “Reticent Splendour” necklace from Eve’s “Feather’s” series features garnets, mandarin garnets, spinels and sapphires.

Eve’s “Reticent Splendour” Necklace

Come explore the wide selection of garnets at Eve Alfillé Gallery & Studio! You won’t be disappointed.