The garnet at its best is a deep, rich red or purple-red although they come in practically every color except blue. They range from pale orange to dark red and violet. Early scientists named the stone from the Latin granatus, which means "seed like," because garnet crystals in a rock reminded them of the shape and color of pomegranate seeds. The garnet was known thousands of years before the Christian era and in ancient writings is probably mentioned as ruby or carbuncle. The latter term is still applied to the red garnet cut in the cabochon form.
Not only was the garnet regarded as the gem of faith, constancy, and truth, but it was believed also to possess many curative powers. At one time it was ground into a powder and used as a poultice, for red garnet was said to relieve fever, and yellow garnet was the prescription for jaundice.
Asians used garnets as bullets in the belief that their strong red color would inflict a deadly wound. Such bullets were used in India in 1892 during a rebellion. Many garnet missiles were kept as curiosities. This use has also been mentioned in stories of Indian wars in the Southwest.
As an amulet, it was very much favored by travelers, for it was said to protect and preserve honor and health, cure the wearer of all diseases and guard him against perils during a journey. All these powers were said to double for people born in January.
The garnet is the fourth stone in Aaron's breastplate, and its ruddy warmth and brightness are so great that Noah was supposed to have lighted the ark with its light. Christian tradition considered the blood-red garnet symbolic of Christ's sacrifice and in the Koran it illuminates the fourth heaven. The Egyptians wore garnets as talismans, too, and the Aztecs offered them as tributes to the gods. The Greeks, as long ago as 500 B.C., were the first to use garnets as signet rings.
Because the color of the garnet has long been associated with blood, it was considered an incomparable cure for all disorders of the blood. Since anger causes the face to flush, the garnet was used as a charm against the effects of anger and was said to be a calming influence and even a remedy for mental instability. Soldiers in combat wore garnets for protection against battle wounds.The most expensive garnet is the brilliant green variety called demantoid (diamond like), which approaches emerald shade and exceeds the diamond in fire or dispersion. The finest of these garnets, which are quite rare, are found in the Ural Mountains.
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