Garnet Stone History

Close-up of orange spessartine garnet clusters.

Garnet Stone History

Garnet has been used in jewelry well into antiquity. Sumerian jewelry decorated with garnet has been discovered that dates back to 2100 B.C., and in Sweden garnet jewelry has also been found dating back from 1000 to 200 B.C.

Egyptian Pharaohs Were Buried with Garnet

The Egyptians prized the fiery glow of the garnet stone. As far back as 5,000 years ago, Egyptian pharaohs would proudly wear necklaces laden in red garnet, and garnet decorated their mummified corpses — a prized possession they could take with them into the afterlife.

The Celts Used Garnet for Protection

Celtic High Priests would inlay garnet stones into their breastplates for protection, and garnet was inserted into Celtic jewelry as well. In Africa, the garnet stone was sacred to tribal elders.

A bracelet with two red garnet stones and white and gold beads sitting on a rock.
Garnet Happiness Bracelet from Conscious Items.

Sealed with Garnet

The Ancient Greeks and Romans were also very fond of the garnet stone. To seal the Ancient Romans’ most important documents, they would stamp the wax with signet rings with a carved garnet stone. During the Roman scholar Pliny’s time (23 to 79 AD), red garnet stones enjoyed a heyday among the most widely traded gems in the region.

Garnet and Christianity

Garnet’s magical history can be traced through the biblical record and the influence of Christianity. Surprisingly enough, the Bible references garnet stone at least four times, although it is referred to as carbuncle.

A.K.A. Carbuncle

Throughout history, the word carbuncle is typically used to describe red garnet, but it also has been used to describe a myriad of other red stones. According to tradition, it is said that carbuncle was one of the four precious stones gifted to King Solomon by God.

The Light of Noah’s Ark

It was a large garnet stone’s fiery inner glow that provided light to Noah’s Ark, according to the Talmud. Garnet is also one of the 12 stones in the Breastplate of the High Priest, representing the tribe of Judah. 

A Talisman for Christian Crusaders

Garnet has a history of being referred to as the Warrior’s stone, as evidenced by the Crusades, where Christian crusaders wore garnet stone as a protective talisman, as did their Muslim enemies. 

A rose pink grossular garnet specimen.

Garnet in the Middle Ages

In Europe during the Middle Ages (circa 475 to 1450 AD), garnet was used to fortify one’s strength, give clarity to the truth, steel one’s loyalty and singe away the fog of melancholy. 

A Stone for Clergy

Garnet stones embellished the adornments of religious clergy and distinguished noblemen, and lion figurines carved from garnet stone would be carried while traveling for ferocious protection from illness.

A beaded garnet bracelet from Conscious Items on a marble surface.

Native Americans Revered Garnet

On the North American continent, garnet held special significance as a sacred stone, Native and South American Indians, the Aztecs and the Mayans all revered the stone. Native American healers trusted in garnet’s ability to guard the body against being wounded, repel the potential for poisoning, prevent nightmares and alleviate depression.

Garnet Stone Used in Weaponry

Yet again in history, we see another instance of garnet stone being trusted in battle. Asiatic tribes used arrows fashioned from garnet stone for their bows, believing that garnet stone’s blood-red color was proof of its ability to inflict a deadly wound.

From Bows to Bullets

Eventually, they upgraded to garnet bullets. The most notable instance of this is the Hanza tribe, which in 1892 gunfire in the form of garnet bullets against their British adversaries at the Kashmir frontier.

The History of Prague Garnets

Garnet’s fiery energy has set ablaze the wonder and intrigue of civilizations and cultures from as far back as the Bronze Age, as evidence of garnet jewelry dating back to the Bronze Age was found in graves in former Czechoslovakia.

The Bohemian Garnets of Czechoslovakia

In Czechoslovakia, they were referred to as Bohemian garnets, or Prague garnets, as Bohemian garnet deposits were the hub of the jewelry industry in the region up until the late 1800s.

Bohemia’s Deep Red Pyrope Garnet Stones

Bohemia is known for its deep, red pyrope garnet gemstones. A characteristic of Czech garnet jewelry is that small garnet stones are usually packed together to cover a piece in a stunning display.

A bracelet with red garnet seed clusters sitting on a drawing of a shining star.

The Allure of the Czech Garnet

Mining these beautiful blood-red stones became a fascination for prospectors worldwide, as many flocked from Venice and Italy for the chance to procure this alluring Czech garnet.

Emperor Rudolf II Establishes the Prague Imperial Mill

The mining of Bohemian garnets became quite an industry, as the emperor permitted gem cutters to extract and export the stone in 1598. Emperor Rudolf II furthered the establishment of garnet mining by ordering the institution of an Imperial Mill in Prague strictly for the cutting and drilling crude, raw garnet stone.

Close-up of a deep green uvarovite garnet crystal.

Empress Maria Theresa Stops Garnet Stone Exploitation

However, the exploitation of garnet stone by prospectors from around the world soon came to be a problem, so much so that during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa, it was decreed that the right to cut and drill Bohemian garnets would be exclusively provided to the people of Bohemia, and remained this way until the 19th century.

Czech Garnet Shops in Prague and Tourism

To this day, Prague continues to be an attraction for tourists looking to procure beautiful Czech garnets, and the streets of Prague have an abundance of Czech garnet shops.

Prague’s Problem with Fake Garnet Gemstone Sellers

However, where there is opportunity there can also be traps, as there is a prevalence of garnet sellers in Prague’s main shopping district that sell fake garnet gemstones. This has become such a problem that tourist literature often warns you of ways to avoid being shortchanged by fake garnet stone sellers.

An orange spessartine garnet stone lit from behind by a close light.

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