In Poland many years ago, a tradition grew up designating particular gems as lucky for people born in each month of the year. The belief probably evolved from the spiritual philosophies of the Jewish wanderers who found asylum in Poland, and the Poles absorbed much of these teachings into their culture. This also was noticed by antique jewelers, who started promoting different antique pieces containing these stones for the relevant months.
The gemstone for January is Garnet, one of the most popular stones used in antique jewelry from the late Georgian and Victorian periods. Seen in an antique jewelry shop back in the 1880's they had age-old poems quoted for the relevant months and for January's Garnet:
No gems save garnets should be worn
By her who in this month is born;
They will insure her constancy.
True friendship and fidelity.
Along with another verse:
The gleaming garnet holds within its sway
Faith, constancy, and truth to one always.
Garnets used in antique jewelry come in three main color types, the most common are shades of crimson red, which very often resembled the seed of a pomegranate. Pictured below are several antique pieces in Beverley R Jewelry in Chicago including antique earrings set with oval cut cabochon garnets, an antique necklace with pear/teardrop shaped cabochon cut garnets, an antique garnet bracelet set with swirl designs cut into the cabochon garnets, surrounded by old cut diamonds in a snake motif; and has been mentioned before on my previous blogs on antique jewelry the snake was symbolic for timelessness and eternity. So combine this meaning of timelessness with the symbolic meaning of garnet, true friendship and fidelity, you have a very romantic piece of antique jewelry as a birthday gift.
1/ 18 kt. Garnet, Pearl & Diamond Boxed Suite comprising of earrings, pendant and brooch, with fringe design. Circa 1880
2/ 18 kt. Cabochon Garnet and Diamond drop earrings. Circa 1900
3/ 18 kt. Pear shape cabochon Garnet festoon necklace. Circa 1880
4/ 18 kt. Carved Cabochon Garnet and Diamond double snake bangle. Circa 1890
This crimson color of garnets had two main varieties, Pyrope and Almandine, and they could be found as larger stones, but they did not always lend themselves to intricate cutting and faceting. Another reason that garnet was so popular was due to the influence of Christianity at this time period. Very popular in garnet antique jewelry pieces was the carbuncle an almandine garnet cut en cabochon, as they believed its deep red coloring was symbolic of Christ's passion and martyrdom. At Beverley R Jewelry antique store in Chicago, we have in stock pictured below an antique jewelry pendant set with oval cut garnet with a diamond cross at its center.
5/ 18 kt. Garnet Locket Pendant, with central Diamond Cross. Circa 1890
The Georgian and Victorian era was a time of great superstition, which meant much of the antique jewelry attire was worn to ward off evil, and doctors used to advise patients to wear antique garnet jewelry to ward off poisons and infectious diseases. In the middle ages, it was used as protection against the plague. In ancient Greek translation, the name for carbuncle meant lamp stone, and they believed that if you wore an antique garnet pendant set with a carbuncle garnet you could see in the dark, one biblical legend tells that Noah used a large carbuncle as a lamp on the Ark.
Another color of garnet though rarer than crimson is the orange garnet which has two main variety types Hessonite and Spessartine garnet. Also pictured is an antique jewelry suite of orange Hessonite garnet from the Georgian period.
6/ 18 kt. Almandine Carbuncle Garnet fringe brooch with the inlaid diamond bug. Circa 1880
The rarest of all garnets is the Demantoid garnet, which was initially only found in Russia. Probably the best description of its color has been given by my wife, who describes it as 'Lime Pucker Green' It is one of the few gemstones used in antique jewelry that has more fire than a diamond, but this is masked by its green color. At the antique jewelry store Beverley R Jewelry in Chicago we have a selection of Victorian 'half hoop' antique engagement rings set with Demantoid garnets and diamonds, pictured below. Demantoid garnets were also popular because it was believed that if they lost their brilliance, it was a warning of impending danger.
7/ 18 kt. Demantoid Garnet & Diamond Victorian 'half hoop' ring. Circa 1880
So to start 2021 on a positive note, and to give yourself a lift come and visit us at Beverley R Antique Jewelry store in downtown Chicago, where we have not only many garnet pieces for the month of January but many other antique jewelry pieces to adorn either yourself or that special someone you want to bring light to their eye and a smile to their face.