Although most rock-forming minerals elicit a “meh” attitude from many collectors, one important group of these minerals makes collectors sit up and take notice. The garnet group has great popularity with collectors, due in no small part to the fact that they are colorful and occur in crystals that range from simple to complex in habit. Historically, Theophrastus (372–287 BC) referred to garnets as anthrax (from the Greek meaning “charcoal”) because when held to the sun, the dark red stones looked like glowing coals. The Romans called garnet carbunculus (from the Latin meaning “little charcoal”) or carbuncle. During this period of time it was believed that soaking carbuncles in vinegar for fourteen days improved their luster and color (Gilg 2008). The first use of the name garnet was by Albrecht von Bollstädt (1193–1280), who derived the name granat from the Latin granatus, referring to the clustered red seeds of the pomegranate that garnet resembles (Galoisy 2013).
Paul W. Pohwat, a consulting editor of Rocks & Minerals, is the collection manager (minerals) in the Department of Mineral Sciences at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution).