Garnet has a history spanning more than 5000 years. Deriving its name from the Latin world for seed, ‘granatus’ Garnet was so named because of its similar color to pomegranate seeds. Appearing in as many colors, when you say Garnet, most people automatically think of small dark red gemstones. In fact, Garnets offer enough variety for every taste and can consequently keep up with the fast pace of changes in fashion. Garnets are a group of minerals; which refer to a fairly complex group with a great amount of isomorphic replacement resulting in intermixtures of chemical compositions giving a distinct range of colors.
Of these varieties andradite and uvarovite have not been found in Sri Lanka. As in other gem minerals garnets too occurs in varying degrees of transparency, the fully transparent ones with good colour being the most beautiful. They could also display asterism in the form of a four rayed star. Even chatoyancy has been noted from among the Sri Lankan material as has been established by some brownish red cat’s eyes. Different varieties of garnets have different properties and these will be discussed separately.
Red and its diverse shades are the commonest colours in which the varieties, pyrope and almandine occur. The beautiful purplish tinted garnets which are fairly abundant in the Matale-Elahera regions are really an intermediate variety between pyrope and almandine. The term Rhodolite seems to be the more acceptable term probably because of its rhododendron-red colour. This intermediate type of garnet is mostly confined to the Elahera regions. Here the colours are extremely fine, the stones clear and transparent and what is more are found in reasonably large sizes. The superior quality of this variety from this region is so renowned that these are sometimes identified as “Elahera garnets” in order to make the variety more specific.
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