THE GARNET FAMILY
Rock&Gem Magazine|July 2021
Spanning the Spectrum of Mineralogy
BOB JONES

Garnets are among the most common crystallized minerals you can collect. It is one of the very few minerals that spans the entire spectrum of mineralogy. It has been used as a gem for thousands of years. It has always been popular as a collector mineral. It is useful in the industrial world, and scientists study some garnets to determine the pressures and temperatures that create metamorphic rocks located many kilometers deep in the earth. Several varieties of garnets are delightfully beautiful and exotic, while others are common and easy to identify when you are field collecting.

It may seem odd to associate garnets with the business world, but one little-known fact concerns the world-famous Wrangell, Alaska, garnets. They played an important role in cracking what the business world calls the “glass ceiling.”

Near the mouth of the Stikine River, close by Wrangell, Alaska, is Garnet Ledge, one of the better-known almandine garnet deposits. Specimens from here have been collected for over a century, starting with gold prospectors, once owned by the Boy Scouts, and Juneau’s Presbyterian Church, and now it is a registered Wilderness area held in trust for the children of Alaska.

Today, you can see the simple 12-sided almandine crystals in mica schist from the Ledge worldwide in museums, in private collections, and to a lesser degree in jewelry. These crystals are choice examples of an iron aluminum silicate garnet. They are not particularly well known for their gem quality, but Alaskan almandine garnets should be considered special in the business world. It happened that the deposit was once owned and operated by the Alaska Garnet Mining and Manufacturing Company in the early 20th century. This company was very special when it operated, not because of the garnets but because it was the first-ever business corporation in America fully owned and operated by women! Check it out on the internet under Wrangell, Alaska, garnets. What a great story it is!

As for almandine garnets, the crystals are easy to recognize because the mineral usually forms in 12-sided crystals that are very hard, 6.5-7.5 on the Mohs scale. They survive after the host rock has been weathered away. That hardness makes this very common mineral suitable for industrial grinding use, so large deposits of garnets, usually metamorphic as in Alaska and Gore Mountain, New York, are mined. Some of these old mines, once abandoned, become rockhound sites of note, such as in Roxbury, Connecticut.

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