Growing up in France, I rarely came across any garnet jewellery. But whenever I did, the stones were always a very dark and uninspiring brownish-red colour — the kind often seen in Victorian jewellery.
I wasn’t always stylish as a teenager in the 80s, but I was colourful! My hair was bright orange (thanks to DIY hair dye) and I wore all the fashionable vibrant colours of the time. A brownish red garnet obviously didn’t fit my aesthetic. It wasn’t until I reached my forties that my opinion of garnet changed forever. The turning point? Studying gemmology!
Truly discovering garnet
I had many ‘aha’ moments during my studies. Not only did gemmology introduce me to fascinating gems like tourmaline, zircon and spinel, it also revealed to me the amazing spectrum of colours that garnet can be found in. And the incredible fire and brilliance it can display.
What a beautiful revelation it was to learn that good quality almandine garnet is, in fact, the most stunning deep and vivid red colour. A red to rival that of ruby and spinel, and not at all the brownish red hue that is so commonly seen. And who knew that garnets could be orange, green, reddish purple and even yellow? As a jewellery designer, I felt like the richness of the earth was offered to me on a silver platter.
Meeting the mandarin garnet of my dreams
My new found adoration of garnet was forever sealed when my husband made a successful bid for an amazing bright orange mandarin (spessartine) garnet during a live auction at my gemmology graduation dinner.
Gone was my belief that garnet was ‘old fashioned’ and irrelevant in the 21st century. And in the process of letting go, I received so much wisdom from my garnet. I saw the beauty of the earth mirrored back to me through this gem. I learned to challenge the status quo. And to breathe and be truly present in the moment.
I had my beautiful mandarin garnet (purchased just a few days before my son was born), set in a ring which I wore with pride and joy to celebrate the birth of my son. In fact, I thought he might have arrived earlier than expected given my excitement to be taking home this special gem! A few years later I decided to reset this treasured garnet into my own design, and not a version of someone else’s, so it is even more special to me now.
Opening to the energy of garnet
Opening up to the energy of this mandarin garnet paved the way for me to work with more rare and exciting garnets such as the velvety reddish purple rhodolite, the yellowy green demantoid, and the rare electric green tsavorite. Named after the Tsavo Game Reserve in Kenya where it was first discovered, tsavorite garnet is the real star of the family. With a green to die for and spectacular brilliance, tsavorite looks incredible when paired with black diamonds or even with its relative, rhodolite.
Designing with these beautiful garnets has allowed me to feel their power — in opening one’s soul to receive, in challenging the general consensus, and in trusting one’s intuition. Garnets, with their brilliance, diversity and fire, are not only relevant in today’s world, but deserve to be seen.