Last year, I took a super fun road trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, with my good friend and talented jewelry designer, Liz. Along the way, we found some fabulous hidden shops filled with all sorts of vintage treasures for sale.
One of these shops we discovered had two floors…the first for anyone who wandered in to browse and the second was only accessible to the owner who was a collector of pretty much anything that had a little history and some sparkle.
Being the curious girls that we are, we asked the owner what she had tucked away, out of sight, upstairs. She told us it was crammed full of boxes and more boxes of vintage costume jewelry that had not made it down to the first floor yet and perhaps never would.
Sounded like heaven to us! After a little persuading, she gave us permission to go upstairs to rummage through the boxes. Without a moment’s hesitation, we scurried up the stairs to see what we could find. With one quick glance around the room, we both admitted we had never seen so much vintage jewelry all in one place!
We started digging immediately. Under one pile of dusty, old broken jewelry was an amazing find. I pulled out a gorgeous garnet pin that surprisingly had not been damaged. I had the owner take a look at it to give me the history. She said it dates all the way back to the late 1800s, during the Victorian era!
I was not very familiar with garnets, but it was so strikingly beautiful I did not want to part with it. She made me quite a steal of a deal and I walked out of there with a little treasure in my hand and a very big smile on my face.
We probably could have spent the rest of the day looking at all the history and sparkle she kept on the second floor, but there were many more adventures to be had by these girls in this quaint little town!
My beautiful vintage garnet pin from Eureka Springs
What is Garnet?
The name garnet comes from the Latin word garanatus, meaning “seed-like” in reference to a pomegranate, as well as the Latin word for pomegranate which is Punica granatum. Small garnets look much like the bright red seeds you find inside a pomegranate.
In ancient Greek customs, pomegranates and garnets are symbolically connected. When used in making jewelry, garnets are traditionally arranged close together resembling the inside of a pomegranate.
Garnet is the name given to a group of silicate minerals that is found in a variety of colors – more colors than any other mineral – including pink, red, purple, orange, yellow, violet, and green. Garnet can also be colorless. The most common color is reddish brown.
Garnet belongs to the isometric crystal class which produces symmetrical, cube-shaped crystals. They can be found in metamorphic, granite, and volcanic rocks forming deep underground and enduring extreme temperatures and pressures.
Garnet makes up a group of six different stones: grossular, almandine, pyrope, spessartine, andradite, and uvarovite.
Garnet variety spessartine specimen from the Willems Miner Collection
The History of the Garnet
The most popular type of garnet is pyrope which has a deep red color. It is also known as Bohemian garnet which is what was used in the pin I found in Eureka Springs.
Bohemia, now a part of the Czech Republic, was once a major source of garnet, creating a very rich industry for cutting, polishing, and mounting garnets. It was first discovered there in 1500 and reached its peak in the late 1800s. Many of the interiors of Bohemian castles and churches were decorated with garnet.
Garnet is found all over the world in countries such as Argentina, Australia, India, Scotland, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, and in Arizona, in the U.S. It is one of the oldest gemstones in human history. The oldest garnets used in jewelry date as far back as the Bronze Age when they were found as beads in a necklace worn by a young man in a grave from 3000 B.C.
Because of its beauty and durability, garnet became highly popular for use in making jewelry in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. In Old Spain, the pomegranate was well-liked, so as a result, garnet was, too. In ancient Rome, they used signet rings with carved garnet to stamp the wax securing important documents.
If you were born in January, what a great excuse to buy yourself a piece of garnet jewelry as that is your birthstone. If you were not born in January, any excuse will do!
Perhaps I will get lucky again and find another glorious garnet treasure during one of my small town road trips with Liz. And if I don’t, I will have to settle for sharing one of those yummy pomegranates with her instead.
*Opened pomegranate – photo credit: Anton Croos; Art of Photography
*Garnet specimen – photo credit: JJ Harrison https://www.jjharrison.com.au/
Kimberly Moore is a vintage costume jewelry expert, blogger, speaker, and author of Beauty in a Life Repurposed. To learn more, visit her website at kingdomsparkle.com.
Read more articles in » blog