The ever-popular garnet has been used jewelry for millenia and is typically seen as either a flat dome or as a faceted gemstone. Rough garnet straight out of the ground looks brown, because the crystals are buried in rock. Once the garnet crystals are separated from their rocky home, they come in all the colors of the rainbow. Besides the dark, rich red that is most common, garnets come in oranges, greens, yellows and warm earth tones. Rough garnet crystals have enough translucence to glow like they are lit from within but are opaque.
Most rough garnet is sent to a lapidary–one who cuts and polishes rough gemstones. He or she looks at the rough and decides on the best use for that particular stone based on the grain and growth pattern of the crystal, and that results in as little waste as possible. He or she will then cleave, or split, the stone and either polish it onto beads, flat-domed cabochons or smooth, fancy shapes, or facet it. The market and trends also determine how he or she will shape the stone in order to obtain the highest possible value from each crystal.
Rough garnet crystals can also be left in their natural state and tumbled, or given a mild buffing and drilled through. This allows them to look more finished but still keep their irregular state. Many appreciate the rugged beauty of rough garnet and will string them into strands or thread them onto earring wires. Especially when done with larger stones, this look can be very bold, elegant and dramatic.
Others take the tumbled or lightly polished rough and set the stones in earring studs, rings and bracelets. These stones are usually bezel set, which means that they are set in a solid ring of metal. This is a more secure setting than a prong setting, because it best works with the irregularities of the rough garnet’s shape and size.
Wrapping rough garnets in wire is another way to use whole rough garnets to give them everything from an organic, handcrafted feel to a highly finished, streamlined effect. Using wire to wrap the stone means that you do not have to drill or otherwise alter the stone. The type of wire used and how it is wrapped to take advantage of the natural shape of the stone makes these pieces one of a kind.
References and ResourcesGarnet
How are Gems Cut and Polished?
Garnet; International Colored Gemstone Association