Garnets come in myriad colors, but arguably they are most often thought of as a deep, rich red. While there are over 20 types of garnets, only six species feature gem quality stones, from the dark, blood-red color of the pyrope garnet to the deep oranges of the spessartine garnet.
When it comes to unearthing the red pyrope garnet, we have a rather surprising miner to thank: the humble ant. Ants encounter the garnets whilst excavating their underground passages, then haul the stones to the surface and discard them. The rain washes the garnets and carries them down the side of the ant hill, where they accumulate in large numbers, leading to their alternate name of ant hill garnets. Their vibrant crimson color makes them easy to spot in the surrounding desert soil. Many of these anthill garnets are found in the Navajo Nation area of Arizona.
Meanwhile spessartine garnets are a distinctive orange-red color, their name deriving from the forested mountain region in Germany where they were discovered in the 1880s. Despite this early discovery, these garnets weren’t commonly used in jewelry until more recent discoveries in Namibia and Mozambique. Spessartine garnets vary in shade depending where they are from, with specimens from Namibia considered the most rare and beautiful, due to their stunning saturated orange shade, often compared to the color of the Fanta drink and also known as mandarin garnets.
With their vast range of shades and tones, it’s easy to find a piece of garnet jewelry to love.
Originally published in Tatler.com