Gemstone History and Properties
The Garnets are a large and diverse mineral group with various chemical compositions which follow the formula X3Y2(SiO4)3. It is this difference in chemical composition, and not just the color like with most gemstone groups, that differentiate one type of garnet from another. For example, the chemical composition of the Hessonite Garnet is Ca3Al2(SiO4)3, while for Almandine, the most common type of Garnet, the composition is Fe3Al2(SiO4)3.
The Red Garnets such as the Almandine and Pyrope varieties have a very rich and illustrious history both as abrasives and as gemstones, with the oldest jewelry containing Red Garnets dating back more than 5000 years. They are also the most likely candidate for the Carbuncle that was mentioned in the bible as one of the gemstones in the breastplate of the high priest. Their use was widespread around the world even in ancient times in places like Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley, and they continue to be among the best known and most widely used gemstones even today.
Legendary properties and historical uses
Unlike many gemstones that had their sources in the east, Red garnets could be found in modern day Turkey and the Czech Republic and as such were available in the west even before the pyramids. In both eastern and western cultures, Garnets were associated with fire, warmth, action and daring as their glittering yet dark appearance is very similar to the sight of burning coals. Due to this burning symbolism, Red Garnets were often considered to be excellent talismans for warriors and kings, and sometimes for jewelers and blacksmiths as well. They were highly prized by the ancient Greeks, who often used it in their jewelry, and by the ancient Romans who often engraved it with elaborate images and used it in signet rings for military officers and nobility.
Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the use of Red Garnets became even more widespread as trade with the east was often interrupted along with the supply of Emeralds, Rubies and Sapphires. The Germanic nations that replaced Rome during the dark ages prized the Red Garnet above most locally available gemstones, perhaps aside from Amber, and this reverence can be seen in much of their jewelry and artefacts. Many sword handles, belt buckles and brooches made of gold and studded with Red Garnets were unearthed from this period all around Europe, the best known examples of which come from the famous Sutton Hoo Hoard.
With such extensive use throughout history, it is unsurprising that numerous myths and legends arose about Red Garnets and their mystical powers. The Greeks saw them as a symbol of fertility due to their similarity to pomegranate seeds, hence the name Garnet (pomegranate), and often used it as a talisman for both fertility and virility. Another common myth at the time was the ability of Garnets to shine in the dark and serve as a light source. During roman times, the Red Garnets were seen as a symbol of victory due to their intense red color, a belief that continued well after the fall of Rome among the Germanic tribes that conquered its territory. The Franks for example, often mixed Garnets with Amber in their jewelry and artefacts as they believed the two to balance each other, while the Saxons and the Goths more often used it alone or with enamel.
The popularity of Red Garnets continued into the middle ages and the renaissance. They were often given to knights as victory talismans that were believed to safeguard their owners in battle. Aside from matters of war, they was also used in matters of love due to the belief that they made men better in bed and could even cure impotence, and it was said that a large Garnet adorned the ring of the legendary Don Juan. Other medical properties ascribed to the Red Garnets included the ability to stop bleeding and heal wounds, aid with heart problems and improve digestion. The direct opposite was also believed to be true, leading to Garnets sometimes being used as bullets, for example by the Burusho\Hunza against the British during the 1890s.
The stone according to Hindu belief
In Hindu belief certain gemstones are connected to certain planetary deities, and these gemstones are able to transmit the energies associated with these deities to a person wearing them, allowing him to enjoy the benefits of those energies in the process.
According to Hindu belief, the Red Garnet is a substitute stone for the Ruby and a representation of the energy of the sun god Surya on earth. The god Surya, who physically manifests as the Sun, is considered the king of all the planets. In Hindu\Vedic Astrology, the Sun represents the ego and soul of a person, hence representing not only his life force but also his desire to live and achieve. For more information about the Sun please visit “Sun-Sol-Shamash-Surya – King of the planets”.
According to vedic astrology, a Red Garnet is suitable for a person if the Sun is well positioned in his natal chart, and is especially recommend if its placement is weak as that is an indicator fir poverty and diseases. If however the Sun’s positioned is harmful, the use of Red Garnets is considered dangerous and is highly discouraged.
Among the properties ascribed to a Red Garnet when it suits a person, are the ability to improve his social status and reputation, his financial status, and his relationship with the father, the employer, the government or any other authority figure. In addition, it is said that the Red Garnet helps to improve health, alleviate problems with the eyes, heart and spine, and make the person kinder and more popular.
If however, the Red Garnet proves unsuitable, it is said that it will cause bad luck, disgrace and disrespect, will harm the health and increase thirst (dehydrate). In extreme cases it is even said to cause problems with the heart and blood vessels.
According to Hindu belief, if one wishes to gain the blessing of the Sun, he should wear an eye clean Red Garnet that is set in jewelry made of one of the following metals: red gold, yellow gold or copper. The jewelry has to be made in such a way that the stone will be in contact with the skin, hence earrings are unsuitable. If the stone is set in a ring, the ring must be worn on the ring finger of the right hand for right handed people or the left for left handed people and women.
Before wearing such a talisman for the first time, it must be washed in fresh milk and afterwards washed again in Ganges water (or any other holy water). The talisman must be worn for the first time on a Sunday falling close to the full moon, in the first hour after sunrise.
Personal experience – Red Garnet
After years of experience with gemstones both as a therapist and a patient, it became clear that every gemstone type has certain effects typical of this stone which can both assist in selecting the right gemstone and in identifying side effects due to unsuitable gemstone type or size.
In my personal experience, the Red Garnet has a strong stimulating effect. Among the positive effects observed were improvements in energy levels, digestion, back problems and addiction issues. In addition a positive effect was noted in regards to self-confidence and self-esteem, general mood, initiative and determination, and relationships with family and authority figures.
In cases of incompatibility and excess, the side effects observed included pain, rashes and skin irritation, increase in pulse and blood pressure, heartburns and stomach problems. Other side effects sometimes observed included conflicts and misunderstandings, and general Weakness.
Please note that the more profound effects mentioned were only observed after prolonged use of the stone.