'the garnet is a gem of some interest. It is the stone for January, and its name probably owes its origin to the similarity of the colour of this stone to that of the blossom of the pomegranate.
Garnets remind us of our grandmothers. About fifty years or more ago, they were much used for brooches and pendants, and although never of much value, their rich red colour had a certain attraction. Of late they have had a second return to favour. They are used with dull gold, small pearls, and enamel, and lend themselves well to the needs of artistic jewellery.
Garnets are fairly hard stones, but this quality varies in different varieties. Red garnets - chiefly used as gems-rank seventh or eighth in the table of hardness; they are harder than quartz, but less hard than topaz. The green garnet is much softer. It can be scratched by quartz, but is hard enough to scratch glass, by which means it may be distinguished easily from glass imitations.
The garnet is almost worldwide in its distribution. It occurs in India, where the mines are of great importance. It is found also in Ceylon, Brazil, East Africa, South Africa - where it is known as the "Cape ruby "-and in South Australia. It is found in Europe, and a certain number of stones are collected in the Alps, the Tyrol, and Bohemia. Those who go abroad will remember that garnet ornaments are much seen in jewellers' shops at Hombarg, Carlsbad, and Marienbad. Bohemia is, in fact, the home of the garnet industry. About three thousand men are employed in cutting the gems, and there are five hundred goldsmiths, and some three thousand five hundred working jewellers. The collecting of the stones gives work to over four hundred persons, and, including others who are engaged in the business, it may be said that in all from nine to ten thousand persons gain their living by the garnet industry.
Garnets vary in their colouring. Their most common colour is a shade of red, but there are green, yellow, brown, and even black varieties. Green garnets of a pale tint come from Siberia, brown or brownish black from Finland, and amber coloured from Ala, in Piedmont. Black garnets are sometimes used in mourning jewellery. Green garnets are apt to be passed off as emeralds, and red garnets used as a substitute for rubies. In fact, a fine red garnet approaches very near to a ruby in colour. The fraud, however, can easily be detected, as a garnet lacks the hard lustre and transparent colour of a ruby, and also has none of its dichroism. By the way, garnet in the form of powder is a valuable grinding agent for precious stones and other hard substances, and it is also used in the manufacture of so-called emery paper.
Garnets vary in size, from the smallest that can be worked to stones the size of a hazel nut. Larger ones are common, but they are seldom free from impurities. The flaw that is usually found in this stone is the presence of fissures, along which it may easily fracture. Garnets are, however, as a rule, extremely pure. Garnets differ widely in value. The worth of a stone depends upon the beauty of its colouring and the purity of its appearance. The alamandine is a deep dark variety, to which was once given the name of carbuncle. It has a rich, red claret colour, and is the most esteemed of the whole family of garnets. The difference between a carbuncle and a garnet is simply that the former is cut en cabochon, while the latter is usually cut with a table and facets. The forms of cutting employed for garnets are those best suited to stones that are more or less darkly coloured. By far the larger number are cut en cabochon, but what may be called grains of garnet seem to be often provided with small facets.
The garnet was a great favourite with the ancients. Pliny called it "carbun-culus," from carbo, which means a live coal, and antique garnets have been found in Roman and Grecian ruins. In former days the garnet was often engraved, and beautiful specimens are to be seen in Paris, Rome, Turin, and St. Petersburg. The topaz is a semi-precious stone that has a wide range of colouring. One variety is white, or, rather, colourless, and such stones are apt to be passed off as diamonds. The fraud can, however, be easily detected, because a topaz is much less hard than a diamond. There are also light blue, light
Onyx buttons. This stone was formerly much used for cameos, a use for which its variety of colouring was well adapted
The hardness of the topaz stands at 8, and it is surpassed in this quality only by the diamond, ruby, and sapphire. When rubbed, it becomes strongly electrical; it is also magnetic, and will attract to itself any light atoms, such as shreds of thin paper.
The topaz is a cheap gem, and the stones are valued according to their depth of colour. Pink topazes are now more popular than yellow. The golden-yellow stones come from Brazil, the sea-green variety from Bohemia, and the white and pale yellow from Saxony.
The topaz is one of the few semi-precious stones found in the British Isles. It occurs at St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall, in certain parts of Scotland, and in the Mourne Mountains in County Down, Ireland. In Scotland, it appears in the south-east of Aberdeenshire, where it is found in granite rock, and is easily recognised by its hexagonal shape, and its tip pointed very much after the manner of a sharp lead pencil. The deeper the shade the more precious the stone, and a cairngorm, as it is called, should be sherry-coloured.
The topaz may be a gem of no special charm, but it is cheap, and its varied tints combine well with other stones, and are often used in artistic jewellery.
Onyx is a variety of tinted agate formed of alternating stripes of white and black, or white and dark-brown chalcedony. The finest specimens come from India, and the stone also occurs in Egypt, Arabia, and Armenia. Onyx, like garnet, belongs to the age of our grandmothers. About fifty years ago, it was much valued, and was used for bead necklaces, brooches, and other ornaments. Mr. Streeter relates that £1,000 was once paid for a very fine row of beads that had been procured with great difficulty.
Onyx has been found in such large masses that small pillars have been made of it. There are six such in the basilica of St. Peter's at Rome, and some are also to be found in Cologne Cathedral. The finest onyx in the world is said to be over the pulpit of St. Mark's in Venice.
Obsidian is a stone of small price, but when cut and polished it has a certain brightness and beauty. Its colours include red, green, grey, brown, and black. Its hardness is 5 to 5 1/2, that of window-glass; it is very brittle, and breaks easily into sharp, angular pieces, but it takes a high polish, and can be used for brooches, pendants, and earrings. When seen at its best, the green variety resembles a green tourmaline. Black obsidian is used in mourning jewellery, and was employed by the ancients for making mirrors. When worn in mourning, it can easily be distinguished from jet, as the latter (which is a variety of coal and a bad conductor of heat) feels warm to the touch, while obsidian is cold. Obsidian occurs in Spain, Hungary, Iceland, and Mexico.
A stone called zircon has a certain vogue, and is by no means expensive. It takes its name from Zirconia, where it was discovered in 1789. Zircon is 7 1/2 in hardness, and admits of a brilliant polish. The best stones are of a brownish shade of orange. Some in pale straw-yellow are called jargoons, and others of a yellowish brown shade are known as hyacinths.
Owing to the brownish shade of these stones, they are not a success when used for brooches or earrings, but the writer once saw a neck-chain of dull gold set with zircons that made a handsome ornament. This was priced at £ 15.
Zircons are found in Ceylon, in one district of the Urals, and in Southern Norway.
The home of coral is in the Mediterranean, and the chief fisheries are off the coasts of Corsica and Africa. The working of coral is an Italian industry. Dainty small articles are made, and pieces of large size are used for the sticks and handles of parasols and umbrellas. If the coral is of fine quality, it is often carved in an exquisite manner, which adds much to its value. The Queen of Italy owns a parasol handle said to be worth £360. Coral fisheries are, as a rule, from four to six miles out to sea; nearer the shore the coral is collected by divers. The best pieces grow at depths which are inaccessible to divers, even when provided with the best appliances. Therefore, for fishing the coral from these vast depths there is in use a special machine, which has been used for centuries in the Mediterranean. This contrivance is known by the Italian term ingegno.
A new stone seems as welcome to jewellers as would be a new animal for food to anxious housekeepers. A few years ago, a new gem was seen in London, known after its discoverer (Professor Kunz) as kunzite.
Kunzite is somewhat soft, with a hardness of only 6.5, but it has lustre, and takes a brilliant polish. It occurs in San Diego County, California. Good specimens of this stone, averaging five carats, can be obtained for from £5 to £7. Owing to its softness, kunzite does not stand hard wear, but forms good brooches and pendants, and combines well with diamonds, olivines, peridots, and tourmalines.
A new stone called benito has also been found in California. This gem is of a deep blue colour, as fine in shade as a sapphire, and even more brilliant.' It will most likely be sold as a sapphire, for in the matter of new stones we English are most conservative.
Aquamarines possess a pale green colour that suggests the hue of sea-water. They come from Brazil, Siberia, and the Ural Mountains. One of the finest known specimens is the sword-hilt, which was in the collection of the late Mr. Beresford Hope, formerly exhibited at the South Kensington Museum. dress for Business wear