In recent years many new gemstones have been unearthed in distant and exoticplaces, occasioning great excitement in the gem world. One such fantastic momentcame at the beginning of the 1990’s with the discovery of a vivid orange garnet inthe remote North-West of Namibia.
While ancient civilizations knew them only as red stones, the garnet family is actually a remarkably prolific one; a feast for gemologists and geologists alike. Each member of this big family forms in the same isometric crystal system, often found as dodecahedrons or“faceted spheres”. However, each has different properties and colors due to slight variations in their chemical structure with some even containing a little of two sets of elements. So mandarin garnet has ten or more siblings in different colors, with new varieties still being found. Mandarin garnet itself is a spessartite with some almandine, and owes its bright orange color to the presence of manganese.
The Namibian deposit was very soon exhausted. But, at the end of the 90’s, when it seemed there would be no more of these beautiful, fiery gems, another source was found in Nigeria.Other deposits are found in Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Sweden, Tanzania, Brazil, Myanmar and the USA but the Nigerian stone is king.
Currently the supply of these stones is relatively stable, but should this source too be depleted,the finest mandarin garnets would become very rare indeed.
The trade gives evocative names to the shades of color displayed by this gem, disputing as to whether the “fireball” or the “Fanta” colors are the finest. All possess an exceptional glow and lively brilliance caused by minute amphibole fiber inclusions that reflect the light. Like most other garnets they are very tough, and because of their hardness and optical properties a skilled lapidary can cut them into any shape, maintaining a good yield; perfect for jewelry
Orange is a bold color. One for a confident wearer. It is a color highly regarded in Asian cultures, worn by priests and, historically, by Chinese Mandarins: thus the name. Like the essence of life itself, the color of the mandarin garnet reflects constant change yet remains always grounded – a powerful connection to our daily life source, the sun, and the warmth and comfort of the earth.In the rather cynical opinion of “Ninon” de l’Enclose (1620-1705) “That which is striking and beautiful is not always good”. But, staring into the depths of a mandarin garnet, there is no doubt that this striking beauty is really very good.
(Chapter from the Book “Gemstones. Terra Connoisseur” by Vladyslav Yavorskyy)