Saturday, January 2, 2021

History of the Garnet: January's Birthstone

Amber Schamel Christian historical author
Blogger: Amber Schamel


 Happy New Year, everyone! My prayer is that 2021 is a wonderful year for all of us.

Let's kick off the new year with learning about January's birthstone, the garnet. 

We usually think about the garnet being a red stone, however it can actually be a range of different colors including pink, green, yellow, purple, or even brown or black. The stone also has a wide range of history, and thanks to it being so durable, we have artifacts dating back to the bronze age.

The word, "garnet" comes from a Latin word meaning "seed or grain". Most believe that this is probably a reference to the pomegranate seed, which is similar in color, and thus gave the garnet its name.

The garnet has been used by royalty for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptian pharaohs used them in many forms of jewelry, and adored them enough to pack their graves with them as well.  The pectoral pictured here was found in the tomb of Princess Sithathoryunet, and includes many semiprecious stones, including the garnet. 

Egyptian Pectoral found in the tomb of
Princess Sithathorynet.
Public Domain

In ancient Rome, garnets were often carved into the signet rings that stamped some of the most important documents in ancient history. According to Plimy, a Roman scholar, the garnet was one of the most popularly traded gems around 23 to 79 A.D. 

Roman signet made of garnet. 2nd Century AD
Photo courtesy of

In ancient times, red garnets were often referred to as carbuncle. However, that term may have also been used for almost any red stone. According to the Islamic and Jewish legends, red garnet was one of the four stones on the signet given to King Solomon by God. This seal is the predecessor of the modern Star of David.

If carbuncle was indeed referring to the red garnet, it is mentioned several times in the Bible. It would have been one of the stones in Aaron's breastplate, and is also mentioned as one of the stones covering the "anointed cherub" that most scholars believe refers to Satan before his fall. 

Another Jewish tradition says that Noah took the garnet onto the ark as a source of light. During the flood, the sun nor moon was there to provide light, so he used the stone that shone "more brilliantly by night than by day" which was how Noah knew the difference between day and night during that catastrophe. 

Garnets seem to have a light that comes from within. This is a translucent garnet, backlight by a flashlight. This specimen came from the Red Embers Mine in Erving, Massachusetts, USA. “Fiery Dragon Eyes (Red Embers Garnet),” photo by Mike Beauregard. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

In the middle ages, the garnet was a favorite of clergy and nobility alike. At this time, people believed dragons had eyes made of garnet. The belief that garnets granted protection and healing to the wearer was very widespread, and in fact, during the crusades, the gem was worn by both Christian and Muslim warriors.

When the Bohimian garnet deposits were discovered in central Europe around 1500, the garnet became more widely available.

It is commonly believed, even today, that the garnet can signal coming danger by turning pale. Regardless of whether or not the stone holds any abilities, it still fascinates people, making it a coveted gem in all parts of the world.


Two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".  

She lives in Colorado Springs near her favorite mountain and between enjoying life as a new mom, and spinning stories out of soap bubbles, Amber loves to connect with readers and hang out on Goodreads with other bookish peoples.

Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!


  1. Garnet is my birthstone, and I've always thought it beautiful but never knew this history. Thanks, Amber!

    1. Happy birthday! Thanks for stopping by, I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

  2. Welcome. Thanks for sharing this. Our sons birthday is January 8th. When our son got married, his fiancé made sure that both of their month flowers were in her bouquet and on his jacket and that both of their birthstones where on the cake centerpiece. Quite a fabulous job she did with it all.

  3. I'll have to see if my rockhound son has any garnets so I can look for that "glow in the dark" feature. Thanks for posting!