Garnet is the birthstone for January. Garnet is actually a group of stones that exist in a rainbow of colors, except blue. While red is the most common hue, any of the colors are acceptable to wear as the January birthstone.
The garnet is said to signify eternal friendship, trust, and fidelity. It is also said to protect the wearer during travel and ensure a quick and safe return.
The name for the garnet comes from the Latin word granatus, which means seed. This is due to the fact that garnets resemble pomegranate seeds.
The garnet has been used in jewelry and for other decorative purposes since as far back as 3100 B.C. when Egyptians used them as inlay jewelry. It is said that Plato had his portrait engraved into garnet for posterity. Many Bohemian castles and churches featured grand interior decorations crafted entirely out of garnet.
There are a variety of legends surrounding the garnet. In Medieval times, the garnet was believed to protect its wearer against poisons and wounds and cure depression. Garnets were also believed to light up the night to protect wearers from nightmares. Due to their blood red color, red garnets were also believed to relieve fever, hemorrhages, and inflammatory diseases.
Mythology associates garnets with Persephone and Hades. Hades, not wanting to let Persephone go, gave her pomegranate seeds when she left the underworld to ensure her speedy return. When she ate the seeds, she discovered she was then bound to return to Hades for 1/3 of the year. According to the myth, the time Persephone spends in the underworld with Hades is winter.