A mineral, usually occurring in symmetrical, twelve-sided crystals (dodecahedrons), of a deep red color. There are also green, yellow, brown, and black varieties. The garnet consists of silica, alumina, and lime, with more or less oxide of iron or manganese. When transparent, it is called precious garnet, and is used as a gem. Other varieties are: melanite, ossular, allochroite, colophronite, ouvarovite. The last-mentioned has an emerald green color. Garnet is a very common mineral in gneiss and mica-slate. It is the carbuncle of the ancients. — Webster, 1882
“The set is a garnet, with a pearl on each side,” Almanzo told her. – These Happy Golden Years, Chapter 23, “Barnum Walks”
Ancient philosophers described the garnet as “sending forth a flame without the aid of fire” because of its typical brilliant orange-red color. The name garnet derives from the Latin word granatus, which originated when garnet grains in rocks were compared to the dark red seeds of the pomegranate fruit. They were originally known as carbuncles, as were other red gems.
Garnets have been used to ward off evil, and were used as a sacred stone by native tribes of North, South, and Central America. At times, they were believed to give protection from wounds or poison, to stop bleeding, or to bring prosperity. Bullets have been made of garnets, because of the belief that they were more deadly than lead.
Garnet is the name of a group of silicate minerals with widely varying chemical composition, but similar structure. They occur in all colors except blue; they are allochromatic, meaning that most of the color variations in the six different types of garnets are due to the variation in trace elements in their makeup – some garnets can be found that are different colors under different types of light. They are most commonly found as small pebbles in streams, where the rocks containing them have weathered away.
Garnets in the Little House books. Garnets have been used as gemstones for thousands of years and are as popular today as they were in the Little House books. They were often used in rings as a symbol of truth and fidelity. Less expensive than rubies, garnets were popular in Victorian times, and stores and catalogs carried many different garnet jewelry items. In Farmer Boy, Eliza Jane Wilder receives a pair of garnet earrings in her Christmas stocking (see Farmer Boy, Chapter 26, “Christmas”).
In 1884, Almanzo Wilder gave Laura Ingalls an engagement ring with a “flat oval set” (suggesting that it was mounted horizontally, as shown in the ring at right) set in gold, with a pearl at each side. Many readers interpret the description to mean that the garnet itself was oval, and “flat” because it was set horizontally, so that it was wider than it was tall. Others believe the “flat oval” itself was made of gold, and a round garnet was set in the middle. Period Montgomery Ward catalogs show rings of both types were sold. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum sells a replica ring based on the catalog drawing shown below; see the museum website for details. As there was a jeweler in De Smet – his store was located directly behind Wilder Feed Store – it is quite possible that the ring was purchased there, although it is not known where Laura’s ring came from. In a letter to a fan, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that she wore a plain gold wedding band with her engagement ring.
garnet (FB 26; THGY 23-24; PG)
garnet and pearl engagement ring (THGY 23-24; PG)