DANBURY, Conn. — Darlene Garrison, a familiar face from working in lending services at the Danbury Library, has collected a lot of garnets over the years.
It started as a fun activity, something to do with her nephews when they visited. They'd go to a mine on the Southbury/Roxbury line that was open for public collecting and dig out some garnets.
Garrison enjoyed hunting for garnets, so when that place closed, she dug up some new locations to find them in western Connecticut.
About a year ago, Garrison looked at the collection she had amassed.
"There has to be something I can do with these," she said. She decided to make jewelry with them, using them just as they were — no chiseling or drilling.
"I asked a friend about making jewelry, and she gave me some supplies," Garrison said. "I went home, started making jewelry, and found out I had more creativity than I thought!"
The first item she made was a necklace made using wire-wrapping techniques. "I would wear it out and friends would see it and seem interested and said they liked it," Garrison recalled.
It wasn't until her activities were curtailed by surgery and recovery time that she found time to make a website for her creations. By the end of 2015, she started to believe it could be a business. In January, she registered it as Garnets in the Rough.
Garrison showed her creations to the director of the Danbury Museum & Historical Society.
"I sold the first batch in the gift shop," she said. "Then in the spring I hit some craft fairs."
One aspect of working with garnets that stands out for Garrison is the energy these gemstones emanate.
"Some of the benefits from garnets are confidence, self-esteem; they help with depression; they have a regenerative energy, increasing strength and stamina; and they help with inspiring love and devotion," she said. "Garnet is the Connecticut state mineral."
Most of what Garrison finds is not 100 percent pure garnet. They often have sandstone or quartz running through them. It's not until she gets home and cleans off the gemstones that she really knows what she's found.
She keeps the garnets in their rough state because experiments with a rock tumbler haven't brought the results she wanted, and she does not want to drill through the garnet itself. Instead, after cleansing the garnets with water and sea salt to energize them, she often uses wire-wrapping techniques and glue to makes necklaces.
Garrison also has taken to using beach stones in her creations, including making miniature cairns. One of her other creations, called a Sweet Dream Bag, combines the properties of a garnet with those of lavender and rosemary.
Children enjoy nightmare-free nights when a bag is placed under their pillows, she says, and one man has told her he notices a big difference when he sleeps with one under his pillow. As long as his head is on his pillow, he sleeps soundly, but if he moves his head off his pillow, he has nightmares.
Garrison works full-time at Danbury Library, and envisions the future of Garnets in the Rough as an interesting part-time business where she can combine her interest in gemstones, minerals, stones and their properties with her creativity.
Garnets in the Rough products are available at the Danbury Museum & Historical Society gift shop at 43 Main St. and at the Workspace Collective at 287 Main St.
Garrison will also bring her wares to the craft fair at the JCC in Sherman on Nov. 5, where she will be demonstrating jewelry-making, and to the holiday fair at St. Peter Church in Danbury on Nov. 12.
Watch a video Darlene Garrison made explaining properties of garnets, on her website, by clicking here .