Skip to Content

What is the traditional January birthstone?

What is the traditional January birthstone?

The traditional January birthstone is garnet. Garnets are a group of silicate minerals that come in a variety of colors, including deep red, reddish orange, and green. The name “garnet” comes from the Latin word “granatum” meaning “pomegranate seed,” in reference to the red color many garnets exhibit. Garnets have been used in jewelry and as gemstones for thousands of years, and are historically associated with healing, protection, and strength. January’s deep red garnets are thought to inspire peace, good health, and prosperity as we start the new year.

What is a birthstone?

A birthstone is a gemstone that represents each month of the year. Birthstones are often worn as jewelry or given as gifts to celebrate birthdays or other special occasions. The origins of birthstones date back thousands of years, with roots in ancient traditions, myths, and folklore. Over time, lists of birthstones emerged associating specific gemstones with each month. While the selections have evolved across cultures, the tradition of wearing birthstones remains popular today.

History and lore of January’s garnet

Garnets have long been associated with the month of January and the zodiac sign of Aquarius. Some key facts about the history and lore of garnet include:

  • Garnets were used as early as 3100 B.C. by Egyptian pharaohs, who adorned their jewelry and clothing with the gemstone.
  • The ancient Romans exchanged garnet jewelry as gifts between lovers as it was considered the stone of faith, truth, and constancy.
  • Garnets were carried by travelers in the Middle Ages as a protective talisman against accidents and injury.
  • During the Victorian era, garnet jewelry became fashionable again thanks to newly discovered deposits in Africa.
  • In contemporary birthstone poetry, the garnet is said to represent peace, health, and prosperity for January-born individuals.

With its long history, vibrant red hues, and lore of protection, garnet has firmly established its connection to the heart of winter.

Physical properties of garnet

Garnets belong to a group of silicate minerals that crystallize into cuboid forms. The most common garnets have the following physical properties:

Property Description
Chemical composition Silicates of aluminum, iron, magnesium, manganese, and calcium
Crystal structure Cubic
Hardness 6.5 – 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale
Specific gravity 3.5 – 4.3
Refractive index 1.71 – 1.94

The wide range in chemical composition allows garnets to form in many colors across the color spectrum. The most prized garnets have high clarity and vivid, saturated hues.

Types of garnet gemstones

There are over 20 varieties of garnet minerals, which are differentiated by their chemical makeup and color. The most significant types of garnet gemstones include:

Garnet Variety Color Key Facts
Pyrope Red, purple-red Magnesium aluminum silicate, historically called “carbuncle”
Almandine Red, reddish-brown Iron aluminum silicate, commonly used in jewelry
Spessartine Orange, yellow-red Manganese aluminum silicate, rare and valuable
Grossular Yellow, green, orange, brown Calcium aluminum silicate, referred to as “grossularite”
Andradite Yellow, green, black Calcium iron silicate, includes rare “demantoid” green garnets
Uvarovite Green Calcium chromium silicate, bright green color is highly prized

The deep red of pyrope and almandine garnets are most linked to January’s birthstone tradition.

Where are garnets found?

Significant deposits of garnet minerals have been discovered across the globe, including:

  • The United States – Idaho, Montana, California, Connecticut
  • South Africa – large pyrope and grossular garnet mines
  • India – famous for almandine deposits and gemstone cutting
  • Sri Lanka – known for fine red and pink gem garnets
  • Russia – key source for rare demantoid and uvarovite garnets
  • Australia – alluvial garnet deposits in Idaho and Montana
  • Brazil – significant spessartine garnet discoveries
  • Madagascar – small but high quality garnets found here

Additional deposits likely remain undiscovered in other parts of the world. Garnets form under high pressure and temperature deep underground, brought close to the surface through geological activity.

How are garnets classified for the gemstone trade?

Gem-quality garnets are classified using a letter-number system indicating their color, saturation, and tone. The standard classifications are:

Classification Definition
A1-A2 Pure red color, slightly dark or light tone
B1-B2 Slightly purplish red, medium-dark or light tone
C1-C2 Purplish red, medium-dark or light tone
D Purplish red, very dark tone
E Bluish red

The numeric digit after the letter grade indicates light (1) or dark (2) tone. Top quality January birthstone garnets are A1 and A2 classification.

How are garnets valued and priced?

Garnets are moderately valued gemstones, more affordable than extremely rare gems. Factors affecting garnet prices include:

  • Color – Vivid red and green garnets command higher prices. Dark tones are preferred.
  • Clarity – Garnets with high transparency and fewer inclusions have greater value.
  • Cut – Precise cutting impacts brilliance and is factored into pricing.
  • Carat weight – Larger garnets are exponentially more rare and expensive.
  • Variety – Demantoid, tsavorite, and uvarovite are exceptionally rare.

Well-cut 1-carat red garnets typically range from $75 to $300 per carat. Larger stones over 5 carats can cost several thousand dollars per carat.

How should garnets be cared for?

Although garnets rate 6.5-7.5 in hardness, they still require some care. Recommendations for garnet care include:

  • Store garnets separately from other gems to prevent scratching.
  • Clean with warm water, mild dish soap, and a soft brush periodically.
  • Avoid exposing garnets to harsh chemicals like bleach, acids, or ammonia.
  • Ultrasonic and steam cleaners are safe for garnets.
  • Have garnet jewelry inspected annually and re-set as needed.

With occasional cleaning and inspection, January birthstone garnets can remain beautiful for many years.

How are garnets used in jewelry?

January’s deep red garnets are extremely versatile in jewelry. Some common garnet jewelry uses include:

  • Solitaire pendants – A single garnet makes a simple yet elegant pendant.
  • Dress rings – Garnet rings with halo or twisted band accents are stylish accessories.
  • Statement earrings – Garnet stud or drop earrings lend bold pops of color.
  • Tennis bracelets – Rows of matched garnets have timeless appeal.
  • Cocktail rings – Oversized garnet rings make dramatic fashion statements.

Garnets suit both classic and modern looks, for all genders and styles.

What’s the significance of garnets?

Beyond serving as January’s birthstone, garnets hold deeper meaning and significance:

  • Associated with the root chakra, energy, passion, and courage.
  • Give the gift of garnets to symbolize friendship or trust.
  • Used as a 2nd and 6th wedding anniversary gemstone.
  • Incorporate garnets into engagement rings in place of rubies.
  • Used in ceremonial jewelry and given as talismans in some cultures.
  • Believed to provide guidance, vigor, and hope as the new year begins.

Garnets are full of rich history, meaning, and symbolism well beyond adornment.


The garnet has endured over centuries as January’s birthstone due to its stunning red hues, intriguing lore, and special significance. Today garnets continue to be beloved in jewelry as birthstone gems or alternative engagement stones. Their natural beauty, availability in large sizes, and affordability compared to rubies or sapphires make garnets perennially popular. January-born individuals can delight in wearing garnets as an emblem of health and fortune in the new year.