Garnets have been one of the world's most popular gemstones for many centuries. Although gem quality garnets can be some of the most beautiful of gemstones, most are relatively affordable. There are some varieties, like tsavorite and spessartite that can be very expensive, but most are modestly priced. They are mined in almost every county on the planet. Though most of us think of garnets as a red gemstone they come in many colors and shades, including orange, green, and pink! Garnets are not actually a single species of gemstone but are a whole family of gems that share certain physical properties including crystal shape and chemical composition. They are generally grouped into six garnet species: almandine, pyrope, spessartine, grossular, andradite and uvarovite.
To complicate matters even more, garnets are never just one species, but are a blend of two or more of these. They are usually named for the species that is most prevalent. A garnet that is described as "pyrope", for example, may actually be 80% pyrope, 15% almandine and 5% spessartine. Some specific blends have also been given names of their own. For example, a garnet that is about 2/3 pyrope and 1/3 almandine is called a Rhodolite. Other names you may encounter for types of garnets include mandarin (yellow-orange spessartine), demantoid (usually green), malaya ( may be pink or reddish orange) , hessonite (usually cinnamon brown or yellowish) or tsavorite(green).
Learning, identifying and describing the seemingly endless varieties of garnets is challenging, but they also provide a wide range of prices and colors for every taste. Garnets also provide a source of great beauty and endless fascination for gem lovers and mineral collectors alike.