Diamond Guide (The 4Cs)
Blue Topaz Guide
Karat Gold Jewelry
Gold Filled/Gold Plated Jewelry
Gold Vermeil/Gold Wash Jewelry
Titanium Jewelry Guide
Garnet Gemstone Guide
The term garnet, rather than referring to a single gemstone, actually refers to a group of minerals that include the gemstones we know as the traditional dark red garnet as well as rhodolite (aka rhodolite garnet) and tsavorite, though these three do not represent all varities of garnet.
dark red garnet is the official birthstone for the month of January as
adopted by the American National Association of Jewelers back in 1912,
and because this dark red gemstone is usually what we think
of when we think about garnet jewelry (rather than its lesser
known varieties) for the purpose of this article we will be discussing
the 'traditional' dark red garnet gemstone.
Garnet Clarity GradingGarnet is considered a Type 2 clarity gemstone by the colored gemstone clarity scale established by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Although there is no industry-wide standard established for grading colored gemstone clarity (as there is with diamonds), most gemstone merchants use some variation of the GIA's grading scale to rate a gemstone's clarity.
Type 2 gemstones such as garnet usually have some visible inclusions (internal flaws or fissures); it's not tragic - it's just the nature of the stone and part of its physical characteristics. Other Type 2 gemstones include ruby, sapphire and peridot.
Within GIA's Type 2 clarity designation are specific clarity ratings:
VVS1 - Extremely Fine Quality. Very few inclusions, difficult to detect under 10x magnification.
VVS2 - Extremely Fine Quality. Minor microscopic inclusions visible under 10x magnification.
VS1 - Very Fine Quality. Minute inclusions barely visible to the naked eye, overall beauty and appearance of the gem unaffected.
VS2 - Fine Quality. Small inclusions hardly visible to the naked eye. Overall appearance of the gem undiminished.
SI1 - Good Quality, Lightly Included. Visible inclusions without magnification needed, not serious enough to detract from the overall appeal and beauty of the gemstone.
SI2 - Medium to Good Quality, Lightly Included. Visible inclusions fairly easy to detect without magnification, though generally not obvious.
I1, I2, I3 - Medium to Lower Quality, Included. Inclusions easily visible to the naked eye, to the point that the inclusions negatively impact the gemstone's appearance. Usually Type 2 gemstones with this clarity grading are used for industrial or commercial purposes and are not used in the manufacture of fine jewelry.
Garnet Enhancement TreatmentsFortunately, garnet is one of the few gemstones that is plentifully found with excellent clarity and color as to not routinely require enhancement treatments of any kind.
Buying Garnet Jewelry / How to Buy Quality GarnetsThe traditional red garnet gemstone has excellent clarity and is often found with very few inclusions. Garnet also has good natural color and a high refraction index, which means it also has excellent brilliance and sparkle. And, because it's a semiprecious gemstone, you will easily be able to find quality garnet fine jewelry, with good size stones, at affordable prices.
When shopping for fine garnet jewelry (garnets set in karat gold, with or without diamonds or other gemstones), get acquainted with the clarity definitions used by your jeweler. If they're not using the GIA definitions as outlined above (and remember, there is no industry-wide clarity scale), then they probably go by such terms as 'clean' or 'eye clean,' meaning there are no inclusions visible without 10x magnification. Type 2 gemstones such as garnet, with 'clean' or 'eye clean' clarity designations are of good quality and suitable for fine jewelry.
Lesser quality garnets (those with a lower clarity designation) will sometimes be used for more casual jewelry (i.e., a chunky Sterling silver ring, versus a 14k gold ring), which doesn't mean that casual jewelry is of lesser beauty or meaning. All it means is that you shouldn't expect to find an extremely fine clarity garnet gem in a Sterling silver setting. Odds are, it isn't going to happen.
As with all other purchases, read the fine print. Reputable jewelry sellers clearly disclose the information you need to make an informed decision regarding your purchase. Their reputation depends on it.
If you're shopping online, be sure to read all the information disclosed on the product's detail page. If there's a link titled something along the lines of More Information, Details, or About Our Gemstones (or something similar), be sure to click on it and read about the jewelry you're considering. And if you don't find the answer to your question, ask! Nearly all online jewelry sellers include a 'contact us' link or offer live chat where you can quickly receive an answer to any questions you have regarding their products.