Bohemian Garnet, why is it so special?
The garnet from Czech Republic differs significantly from others of its family group by its extraordinary purity and transparency. It never has any discoloration, so that even the ruby cannot compare to the pyrope in its red color depth and saturation. It is the color not the size valued in pyrope. The size of the gem is 3 to 7 mm.
However, there are the exceptions from the rule. There is the biggest pyrope of 633,4 karat in the museum of Trebnitz, the Order of the Golden Fleece decorated with the Czechian garnet of 468,5 karat in Dresden. Both these stones were found in North Bohemia. The fate of another gem of 700 grams found here in the beginning of XVII century is unfortunately unknown. Yet, it is somewhere!
The peak of the popularity came in the beginning of XVII century, during the ruling of Rudolf II, when his private doctor from Italy Anselmus Boëtius de Boodt compared the Bohemian garnet with the gold. Here is what he wrote on his famous mineralogy manual: “Gemmarum et lapidum historia”:
“… they are more noble than the eastern ones, partly because they lack any inclusions, partly because they are not afraid of the fire similar to the live coal». A breath-taking red color, its amazing consistency during the torrefaction couldn’t stay unnoticed by the experienced expert of the precious gems. «The Bohemian Garnet could be considered immortal, and could be compared only to the diamond or pure gold ».
The cause of this comparison is attributed to the characteristics of the garnet. At that time, the alchemists set up experiments in attempt to derive gold from different minerals. The Bohemian Garnet was the only one which was impossible to destroy in fire.
Thanks to these characteristics, the garnet was valued as high as the diamonds. They were used for the decorations of the ornaments such as jorums and goblets.
The true artwork glorified the Bohemian garnet worldwide are, for example, the Lobkowitz Shrine in Treasury Larreta which is over 300 years old.
The history of the Garnet in Czech Republic.
In the ancient times, the Bohemian Garnet was occasionally found and gathered in river drifts. The organized collection and exportation of the garnets to Europe started in the early middle ages, during the period of peoples great migrations, since VI till VIII centuries. In the middle ages the popularity of the Bohemian Garnet almost disappears. Few jewelry exhibits have been preserved since XIV century (reliquary from Prague Cathedral). It was not until the late 15th century that garnets began to be used more often as decorations on liturgical silver, particularly chalices.
The culmination of Bohemian Garnet popularity falls for the period of Emperor Rudolf II (ruled 1576 – 1610) who supported the cutters and has used his right of the first refusal on garnets of exceptional size. In 1679, Bohuslav Balbín named pyrope the Bohemian Garnet. Since those times all pyropes found in Czech Republic were called “Czechian Garnet”. The jewelry with the small gems became very popular at the end of the first half of the XVIII century. Because of that the Empress Marie Terezie prohibited the export of Czehian Garnet abroad. Thanks to the embargo on the exportation of the Bohemian Garnet as the raw material the best Bohemian garnets have been kept in Czech Republic.
The Czech national renaissance established the Bohemian garnet as the mineralogical symbol of Bohemia. It became an attribute of Czech patriots (portraits of the wife of Václav Hank, the daughter of František Palacký, Božena Němcová, etc.). Thanks to the efforts of the designers and jewelers from the Turnov town at the world jewelry exhibition in Brussels in 1958 the Czechian Garnet returned to the modern artwork and opened the new page in the gem’s history of jewelry production in Czech Republic.
The biggest jewelry collection with the Bohemian Garnet of a historic value is located in the National Museum in Prague. The smaller collection can be found in the Museum of Art and Industry in Prague and the Moravian Gallery in Brno. The full collections can be found in a specialized school in Turnov (apprentices’ works) and in the local Museum of the Bohemian Paradise.
Pyrope in Myths and Legends.
The Mongolians called the pyrope “Galyn Chullu” – a fiery stone. In olden times they believed that the particles of the volcano erupted consolidated fire can shine in the dark.
The warm red fire of the pyrope lightened the Noah’s ark. They say he used a lantern made with the garnet to save his ark in the dark nights.
Other legends say that the pyropes are hardened blood drops of the dragon and give people enormous strength and courage. The warriors of Tamerlane drank the pomegranate juice from the jorum incrusted with the fiery stones.
People believed that the pyrope guards its owner from all the enemies, gives him/ her strength and invincibility. Many early researchers and travelers were fond of wearing the garnet. It was popular as a gem – talisman and protector, as it was considered to protect its owner from misfortune if used at night as the light illumination. The knights ornamented their swords with the Czechian pyrope. If they still got injured they truly believed to be healed if they wore the garnet. They went so far placing the Bohemian gem into the glass of water and drank this water as a remedy.
In the literature and the life of famous people.
The Kuprin’s novel “Granet braslet” is a touching story of a strong love that happens around the bracelet with the deposits of garnets. “It was golden, of a low grade, very thick but hollow inside and entirely clustered with ancient badly polished garnets.
The bracelet in the story symbolizes the unselfish self-sacrificing love, which doesn’t expect a reward. The love which is described as strong as the death. Such love the women dream about and the men are not capable of. It withstands all society principles; even the death cannot calm such strong feeling. Unfortunately Vera Nikolaevna, the main character of the story, understood too late how strong the feeling was. All she has left is the bracelet and… the memory. It is hard for her to realize that she hadn’t recognized this love earlier. «The garnet bracelet» – is a fabulous story about the great unshared love which “happens once in thousand years”.
Another romantic story is connected with this gem. Being his declining years Goethe devoted a famous “Marienbad Elegy” to a very young Ulrika von Levetzow. The great poet was head over hills in love with the young lady and in sign of his love presented her a high-value set with Bohemian garnets, which is now exhibited in Trebnitz museum.
In the Bedrich Smetana Museum in Prague, one can find dark the one of a kind fiery red color garnet necklace. It was presented it as a gift by the musician to his wife as a symbol of a long and happy life together. This necklace is considered to be most beautiful Bohemian jewelry in the world.
As the years were passing by, the Bohemian jewelry was becoming famous far beyond the borders of Czech Republic. According to the legends the impress Ekaterina II was truly fond of these charming Bohemian gems. Later, many Russian noblemen shined at the Europian receptions in the jewelry with Bohemian garnets.
The magnificent pieces of art with the Bohemian Garnet can be found in the museums of Prague, Teplitz, Hradec Králové, Karlovarsky museum, in famous European museums of Paris, London, Vienna, Brussels and Copenhagen, in the museums of India, Japan and United States. More than half a thousand showpieces are presented on the museums of Turnov town. Notably, the most valuable exhibits are the modern jewelry. For example, the copy of copy of the cross, presented to Pope John Paul II in 1990.
The oldest and most valued piece of Art is a treasure belongs to the German nobleman and the warrior. The interment was found in Blučina stronghold near Brno in South Moravia. One of the most unique showpieces presented to the modern viewer is the Monstrance of the Borokko epoch which could be found in Kostel sv. Mikuláše museum in Prague. The jewelry item is incrusted with 368 Bohemian Garnets, 19 diamonds and 135 crystals.