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Garnet Family of Gems Includes Rainbow of Varieties

The word garnet - coming from the Latin granatus, meaning grain - refers not to color, but to a complex chemical composition common to more than 10 gemstones. Because some of the formula's elements are interchangeable, natural garnets have turned up in shades of every color but blue.

The chemical combination also renders these stones particularly hard, which makes them excellent choices for durable and beautiful, everyday jewelry. Garnets also boast high refraction, resulting in breathtaking brilliance; Noah is rumored to have used a garnet lantern to steer his Ark, and many wore the bright stones to ward off evil.

Though garnets fall roughly into color families, they still have great variance in hue. As one might expect, red garnets remain the most popular and affordable. These are the Almandines and Pyropes; in good quality, the latter resembles a dark ruby. Rhodolite, a reddish-purple stone, and the orange-to-brown Spessartite are among the more expensive garnets, though still more affordable than aquamarine or topaz.

From the Grossular family of calcium-aluminum garnets come the Hessonite stones in oranges, browns and pinks, as well as the Tsavorite, a stone that derives its beautiful green color from chromium, just as the emerald does.

The Demantoid is a green stone of diamond-like brilliance, but its rarity commands a hefty price. Not all garnets are readily obtainable in large sizes, which is why they're often seen in clusters. Because of their wide range of colors and price points, garnets are the perfect choice for everything from a girl's first pendant to a man's tie tack - a truly versatile gemstone.