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Shine Bright Like a Garnet

How I went from being disappointed with my birthstone to proud of it (and myself)

By Ashley GomezPublished 2 years ago 9 min read
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Shine Bright Like a Garnet
Photo by Margarita Zueva on Unsplash

Fun Fact: The name "garnet" is derived from the Latin word granatus, which means seed or grain. It is likely that this references pomegranate seeds because of their resemblance.

People across the globe have been wearing garnets for millennia. Everyone from Egyptian Pharaohs to medieval clergy members to Anglo-Saxon warriors have been found to cherish this gemstone. As such, this hardy stone has enjoyed a multitude of uses and symbolic meanings all throughout history. Although its rich culture may be lost on many wearers nowadays, its popularity persists as January’s birthstone. My birthstone.

My dad was the first to acquaint me with the garnet. When I was old enough to be responsible for such a gift, he bought me a garnet ring and matching necklace. I've cherished these pieces all these years because they came from him. However, something used to bother me whenever I saw them in my jewelry box. For a long time, I was disappointed by the sight of that gemstone.

I lamented that my birthstone was such an underwhelming gem.

I would often marvel at other gems, envious of those who could claim them as their birthstones. The brilliance of a diamond is undeniable. Garnets appear dull by comparison. Opals are among my favorite of the birthstones because of their iridescence. They're much more playful and delicate, you know? Oh, and Alexandrite is such a clever stone. I'm fascinated by its color changing ability under different types of light! By all accounts, the other 11 birthstones are more vibrant than the garnet. Funny how I've thought the same about myself when compared to others.

I hadn't spent any significant amount of time wondering why I felt this way. The garnet just seemed appropriately dull and uninspiring to be my birthstone. I'm a dull girl with an unimpressive story, lackluster personality, and boring character. I'll never be the beauty queen, the hero, the chosen one, or the winner. Just like how you never hear about garnets being praised or sought after in movies and songs, you'll never hear about me. I've accepted that I'm just not that special. (FULL Disclosure: I've never felt this way about my fellow January babies. Never at all! This is a personal recount of how I thought of myself, which I recognize is toxic.)

When I was least expecting it, I had realized why I condemned my birthstone. It was around this time last year. I was having one of my usual anime binges to distract from the real world, and most of all, my self-destructive thoughts, and I took a direct attack by one of the characters speaking some hard truth. So there I was, trying to disassociate, but instead on a path to self-discovery and starting to feel things like self-love. I realized that I disliked garnets because I disliked myself. I was projecting my own insecurities onto my birthstone.

How petty, amirite? Here's how it all went down:

Before the anime, I had already been thinking about jewelry and gemstones. Growing up, I wasn't one for accessorizing, so I never acquired much. While I was hoping to give myself confidence boosts by putting more effort into my look, I began wanting to incorporate jewelry into my outfits. I quickly grew tired of my small selection. It was time to add a few new pieces to spice things up.

As fortune would have it, there was an antique show coming up that I like to attend every year. As an avid window-shopper, it's already a guilty pleasure of mine to peruse sparkly jewelry even if I don’t think they'd suit me. This time, though, I had decided I would actually buy something. Going on what was essentially a treasure hunt to obtain a piece of jewelry with history that I vibe with sounded so fun! Of course, I had to do some research ahead of time so I could shop smart. Being able to ascertain whether a ring in front of you is indeed worth what the vendor is telling you is a worthwhile skill, I assure you. And while I was researching ways to identify all kinds of different gems, I can promise that the garnet was not among my search results at the time.

This is where anime fits in. The Case Files of Jeweler Richard is a 12-episode series featuring a college student who meets a Richard, a foreign-born man operating a jewelers in Tokyo. As a viewer, you get to learn about several beautiful gemstones - about one per episode. Lo and behold, one of the episodes features the garnet.

Episode 4 introduces a character named Mito Yamamoto, a woman wishing to purchase an engagement ring for herself. We find out that Mito had been dumped for a younger woman by her fiancé, whom she had been dating for 7 years. She no longer had faith that she would be wed, given her age. Hurting from a broken heart, she decided to buy herself a ring. Mito had chosen a garnet because it was her birthstone. It's later revealed that she refused to believe that the beauty of a diamond or allure of a ruby were befitting of a woman like her.

It was already much to my surprise that I related so much to this woman. I totally understood where she was coming from. I quickly became invested in this episode. Her first visit to the jewelry store didn't yield the results she was hoping for, so she left for the day. She eventually returned but this time more distressed than before. Having witnessed her ex-fiancé buying an engagement ring with his new girlfriend, she opened up to Richard.

Mito: “I know my commercial value. I’m not a diamond or a ruby. And garnets signify hard work and perseverance. That’s perfect for me.

Richard: "In ancient Rome, soldiers kept red garnets as talismans. People used them to pray for victory and a safe return home. I believe the same is still true two thousand years later. After all, life is a battle. For example, when searching for a companion in life. If an opponent appears, it means a fight. In such battles, I believe rather than youth or beauty, hard work and perseverance are your best weapons. Of course, you’re also free to choose not to fight. But I see you as a warrior who stands her ground.

"You say you’re not a diamond or a ruby, but you don’t shy away from that. That proves you’ve given great thought to who you are. That you want to win, and that you want to survive. That you have the will to fight."

I sympathized with Mito so much that his words were like a punch to the gut. I was hit with the realization that I took my own insecurities and attached them to my birthstone. There is more to this gem that I should consider. I needed to reevaluate things a bit.

Despite my low self-esteem, I have always been a fighter. Like Richard said, life is a battle. I fought to break out of my shell when I joined the theater club in high school as a timid and quite girl longing to find her voice. I fought to graduate in the top 5% of my class to earn scholarships and grants that would ease the burden of college fees. I fought to excel in my jobs to earn pay raises and additional responsibilities that helped me grow my livelihood and my skills. I face my battles as best I can because my only path is forward. I've long battled depression, imposter syndrome, and self-hate. I will continue to fight even after failing. I'll do what it takes to keep moving forward. If the garnet represents the will to fight, then I think I can embrace my birthstone after all.

Furthermore, the garnet is much more interesting and beautiful than I ever gave it credit for. (Yes, yes. I am also more interesting than I give myself credit for, too. I see the pattern here.) The pyrope garnet is the type we associate with January's birthstone. It's a deep red color. However, garnets come in a variety of types and colors that most people aren't aware of! In fact, there are twenty species of garnet and plenty more varieties, giving us just about every color of the rainbow. I'll describe some of my favorites!

  • Tsavorite garnets are a brilliant green color, vibrant enough to give emeralds a run for their money. I'd love to have a necklace with this stone someday.
  • Spessartite garnets range from orange to reddish brown. I fell hopelessly in love with the fiery mandarin variety.
  • Another type of garnet that has stolen my heart is the ant hill garnet. Hilariously enough, these little red gems are mined by actual ants as they excavate their underground passages. They haul them up to the surface and discard them. HOW FREAKING CUTE!
  • Finally, there's the star garnet. Like tiger's eye gems and moonstones, star garnets boast asterism. That's the star-like reflection of light you see moving across a smooth stone depending on how you hold it. Super pretty and fun to admire.

I highly encourage you to look up images of these gemstones! My brief descriptions don't do them justice. The gem industry is incredibly rich and diverse, so I still have much to learn. My newfound appreciation for my birthstone has helped pave the way for another step towards self-love and improved self-esteem. It's a long journey ahead still, but like a warrior clutching the garnet talisman gifted to them by their loved one, I know I'll succeed in due time.

I'm a garnet in the rough, sort of speak, and I'm dedicated to polishing my every facet to see just how brightly I can shine. Wearing my birthstone will be a testament to that from now on. I hope you can feel inspired by your birthstone, too. What will learning about yours teach you about yourself?

Afterward

Okay, I didn’t buy a garnet at that antique show I mentioned, but I did find these two rings that I love. Albeit, anticlimactic, but mind you - I wanted to diversify my collection, and I already have my cherished garnets from my dad. The left is a moonstone set in sterling silver and the right is onyx set in white gold. They both fit different looks I like to rock. :)

A little yin and yang, don't you think?

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