A very long time ago I worked as a tour leader in Pakistan and China. With a very old bus, I drove from Pakistan over the Karakorum Highway (one of the most dangerous roads in Asia) into the direction of Kashgar, where we should start the Silk Route. The weather was awful, it was raining already for days and there were landslides all over the road.
It was not looking good and I was really worried that we had to turn around, back to Peshawar in Pakistan. At one point we had to stop because they were moving the debris caused by a landslide by hand. And that could take a while. It did not rain anymore and we went out of the bus.
Garnets in Pakistan
Curious as I am, I saw some funny looking cubical stones just along the roadside. I gathered a handful and asked the driver what they were. He said ‘Ohhh, that is just garnet’. ‘Garnet, I asked him, you mean the gemstone. Yes, but they are worthless when they are not polished. You will find them everywhere here’. What a shame to do nothing with those gems. Pakistan has so many hidden gems (not only garnets), that it should be a very very rich country.
Anyway, I took a handful garnet back to the Netherlands. My father was a jeweler and I was convinced that he could do something with them. That was before I studied mineralogy. My dad said that cutting the garnets would be impossible since you would lose such a lot of stone and that they would get too small to use in a piece of jewelry. The only way to handle this was polishing them in a kind of washing machine with sand and water. That process will take about one week!
I did not have a ‘washing machine’ that could do the job. But my love for the garnet and all the mystery around it was born. One way or another I wanted a decent cut and polished garnet in a piece of jewelry. A lot of years passed by…
Garnets in Sri Lanka
A few years later I had a tour in Sri Lanka. And I tell you that being a tour leader is a hard job and you don’t have a lot of time to look for gemstones or souvenirs. I was lucky. Next to my hotel was a very small gemstone shop and I stopped there for a moment (I planned to stop there for a moment). There was a very nice guy and he offered me a cup of tea and started telling about his collection, of mostly garnets.
Most of the garnets are red, but he showed me garnets in all the shades of red, but also orange, brown and black garnets exist. He told me that the garnet was formed in the magma of the earth, then on the way to the surface mixed with all kinds of minerals, that caused the color differences.
It is a hard stone and hard to polish. No wonder my ‘washing machine trick’ did not work with garnets. And because they are so hard in time the surrounding rock will erode and the garnet particles will be left behind. And that’s how I found them along the road of the Karakorum Highway.
Garnets in the Netherlands
And you can find them too. You can find them in the sand. There is a place in the Netherlands (and there are many more) called Bergen, about 20 minutes per bike from my home, where you can find sand with garnet particles. It’s a pity you can only see them under a microscope, but you know that they are there when the sand turns reddish.
Every gemstone has a great story, just like the garnet. A story that makes the gemstone more valuable, it gets more emotion and you will appreciate them a lot more. Besides that, every gemstone is waiting for you to be picked up for millions and millions of years. They are that old, what a patience.
The garnet is the birthstone of January, but you don’t have to be born in this month to love the garnet. When you want to know more about your birthstone ask for the free e-book about birthstones. Click on the photo or the link and let me know where I can send this free e-book to.
Hug, Florence from FlorenceJewelshop