Garnet is the traditional and most well-known birthstone for January, but it is not the only gemstone associated with January births. There are actually several different gemstones that are considered January birthstones.
What is the January birthstone?
The main and most popular January birthstone is garnet. Garnet is a group of minerals that comes in many different colors like red, orange, yellow, green, purple, brown, black, pink and even colorless. The most common garnet is the deep red color, so when people think of garnet as a birthstone, they often picture the classic red garnet. Some famous garnet varieties include:
- Pyrope garnet – Often a deep red color
- Almandine garnet – Ranges from red to reddish-brown
- Rhodolite garnet – Purplish-red or raspberry colored
- Tsavorite garnet – Green variety
- Hessonite garnet – Yellowish-orange or brownish-orange
- Demantoid garnet – Vivid green with a diamond-like brilliance
- Spessartite garnet – Bright orange or orange-red
So while red is the most iconic garnet shade, there are many color varieties found in nature. In addition to its beautiful colors, garnet is relatively abundant and affordable. The hardness ranges from 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale, making it durable enough for jewelry.
Other January birthstones
Although garnet is the primary and most recognized January birthstone, there are a few other gems that are also considered birthstones for January. These include:
|Rose quartz||Pastel pink||Sometimes called the “Love Stone” and gifted for love, balance, and healing|
|Zircon||Variety – blue, brown, orange, red, green, colorless||One of the oldest minerals on Earth – over 4.4 billion years old!|
|Onyx||Black, white, red, green, yellow, blue||Believed since ancient times to deflect negative energy|
|Turquoise||Blue-green||One of the earliest gem materials used in jewelry|
So while garnet reigns supreme as the quintessential January birthstone, there are alternative January birthstones that also make meaningful jewelry gifts.
History of the January birthstone
Birthstones have been around since ancient times, with different cultures and civilizations associating certain stones with astrological signs, months of the year, or attributes like strength and healing. Below is a look back at the history of the January birthstone:
- Before 1912 – There were no universally accepted birthstones for each month. Different cultures had their own associations.
- 1912 – The American National Association of Jewelers released an official birthstone list, including garnet as the stone for January.
- 1952 – The Jewelry Industry Council of America updated the modern birthstone list. Garnet remained the January stone.
- 2002 – Tanzanite was added as a second December birthstone by the American Gem Trade Association.
- Currently – The month of January is primarily associated with garnet as its birthstone, with some alternative stones also considered January birthstones.
So while garnet has been the undisputed January birthstone for over a century, its history dates back much further as a stone associated with the new year, vitality, love, passion, and light.
Garnet birthstone meaning & symbolism
In addition to its rich beauty, garnet has carried significant meaning since ancient times. Some key symbolic associations of the January garnet birthstone include:
- Light & energy – Believed to illuminate the night and provide energy
- Passion – Associated with fire and the heart chakra, said to increase sensuality
- Love & devotion – Gifting garnet symbolized commitment and monogamy
- Healing – Thought to have curative powers and anti-inflammatory properties
- Protection – Provided safety during travel and dark nights
- Prosperity – Garnet jewelry gifts brought wealth and success
Garnet’s rich red color links it with fire, blood, and passion. And its vitreous luster was said to illuminate the night. These properties imbued garnet with symbolic meaning and made it a prized jewel and January birthstone.
Where does garnet come from?
Garnets form in metamorphic rocks like gneiss and schist or in igneous rocks like granite. They crystallize deep underground under high pressure and temperature. Garnets are mined around the world, with sources including:
- Africa – Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria
- Asia – India, Sri Lanka
- South America – Brazil
- USA – Arizona, North Carolina, Idaho
- Europe – Czech Republic
The traditional source of red garnet was Bohemia, which was part of the Czech Republic. Africa is currently the major producer of garnet, especially rhodolite garnet. Each garnet variety comes from specific localities. For example, demantoid garnet is only found in Russia’s Ural Mountains.
How to buy garnet jewelry
When shopping for garnet jewelry, here are some tips to find the highest quality pieces:
- Look for deep, vibrant color without dark spots
- Check for clarity – no distracting inclusions
- Pick a style you love – garnet suits any jewelry design
- Choose the ideal cut to maximize brilliance
- Pick a durable setting that protects the garnet
- Buy from a reputable jewelry seller
- Consider your budget – garnet has options in any price range
Focus on color intensity, clarity, cut quality, and durability when selecting garnet jewelry. With its high refractive index, garnet has impressive fire and radiance when faceted.
How to care for garnet jewelry
Garnet has excellent hardness and durability for everyday wear. But care is still needed to maintain its beauty. Here are some garnet jewelry care tips:
- Store garnets individually to prevent scratching
- Clean with warm water, mild soap, and soft brush
- Ultrasonic or steam cleaners are usually safe for garnet
- Avoid harsh household chemicals that can damage or dissolve garnet
- Take off garnet jewelry before physical activities
- Have garnets checked by a jeweler and re-set if needed
By taking basic precautions, your garnet jewelry will retain its fire and luster for many years. The January birthstone’s durability makes it an excellent choice for jewelry worn every day.
January birthstone gifts & ideas
Garnet makes a perfect January birthstone gift. Here are some garnet jewelry gift ideas for January birthdays:
- Garnet stud earrings – Classic for any age
- Garnet birthstone rings – From solitaire to stackable
- Garnet pendant necklace – Timeless and versatile
- Garnet tennis bracelet – Elegant and stylish
- Garnet cufflinks for men – Adds sophisticated style
- Garnet stones or loose beads – For DIY jewelry making
- Mixed garnet jewelry – Showcases color variety
Garnet suits any taste from modern to vintage. It comes in every jewelry style and at all price points. Due to garnet’s abundance, January birthstone jewelry is affordable and makes a thoughtful gift.
Garnet has long been established as the go-to January birthstone, prized for its deep red color and mystical properties. But garnet actually refers to a group of gems that come in every color. While garnet reigns supreme, other January birthstones like rose quartz, zircon, onyx and turquoise also make unique jewelry gifts. Garnet’s rich history, beauty, meaning, and affordability make it the perfect birthstone to kick off the new year.