Garnet - aren't these the wonderfully deep red gemstones which are often found in antique jewellery? Well, this is only the partial truth, as a warm and deep red is indeed the most frequently occurring colour for Garnets. But unfortunately only few people know that the realm of Garnets holds many more bright and beautiful colours. The traditional image of Garnet has been brightly transformed by spectacular founds, mainly from Africa. Although red remains the major colour, Garnets today easily adapt to any new colour trend in fashion due to the rich range available. And because of the new founds, there are reliable sources for steady supply in these fancy colours. All this explains why this very gemstone family manages to keep on providing new impulses for the jewellery events in our days.
An expert will understand "Garnet" as the denomination for a group of over ten different gemstones with a similar chemical structure. Although the colour red is the one which occurs most frequently, there are also Garnets showing different shades of green, pale to bright yellow, fiery orange and fine earth- and umbra-shades. Only blue is a colour which is not available in Garnet. Garnets are gemstones which are in high demand and are often worked into pieces of jewellery - especially since today not only the traditional gemstone colours red, blue and green are cherished by the consumer, but the intermediate shades and hues are also very popular. Besides the realm of Garnets also possesses rarities such as asterism or atones which change their colour from daylight to artificial light.
What else characterises this gemstone family? First of all, there is the excellent hardness of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale. This applies, with minor variations, to all the members of the Garnet group. And this is also an explanation why these gemstones are so excellent to wear. Garnets are quite sturdy and resistant to everyday wear and tear, and uncomplicated to work into jewellery. Only to hard impact or uncontrolled heating they will react adversely. Another point in favour of Garnets is their high refraction of light, the reason for the amazing brilliance of Garnets. The shape of the rough crystal is also interesting. Garnet, after all, means something like "the grainy" and is derived from the Latin word "granum" meaning "grain". This refers to the typically rounded shape of Garnet and also reminds of the seeds of the pomegranate. In the middle ages, Garnet was also called "karfunkel" in German, referring to the glowing red reminding of the sparks of fire. Today there are a lot of imaginative names used in the trade, such as Arizona Ruby, Arizona Spinel, Montana Ruby or New Mexico Ruby.
The Garnet illuminated already Noahs Ark
Garnets have been widely known for thousands of years. Even Noah, it is reported, used a lantern from Garnet in order to safely steer his Ark through the darkness of the night. Garnets are found in jewellery from ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman eras. Many courageous discoverers and travellers wore Garnets for protection, as they were considered popular talismans and protective stones, because it was believed in those days that Garnets illuminate the night and prevent their wearer from any sort of evil. Today science explained to us that the proverbial luminosity of Garnet is caused by its high refraction of light.
Garnets come not only in many colours but also under many names: Andradite, Demantoid, Grossularite, Hessonite, Pyrope, Rhodolith, Tsavorith, Spessartine, Uwarowite etc.. Let us focus on the most important ones, and let us start with red Garnets. First of all, there is fiery red Pyrope. Its fierce and often slightly bronze coloured red was highly popular as gemstone colour in the 18th and 19th century. Worldwide renowned in those days were the Bohemian Garnets from an occurrence in the north-eastern part of the former Kingdom of Bohemia - small stones in a wonderful colour. In Europe they were frequently used for jewellery in Victorian times. This genuine Bohemian Garnet jewellery is traditionally decorated with many small stones which are tightly arranged along each other like the seeds of a pomegranate. Today Garnet is still found in the Czech Republic, and the stones are still arranged in the traditional way, tightly joined, so that the attraction of the classical Garnet jewellery is caused by the beauty of the stones only.
The large central stones of the typical "rosette" arrangements are usually also Garnets, but these come from another category. Almandines, named after the ancient gemstone city of Alabanda in Asia Minor, are c a little different in their chemical structure from Pyropes. Why these are preferred as central stones? Well, Nature only grows Pyropes in small sizes, but allows for Almandine crystals in larger dimensions.
Another red Garnet variety is Rhodolith, a crystal mixture from Almandine and Pyrope This popular red Garnet shows a wonderful velvety red with a fine purple or raspberry coloured undertone. Originally discovered in the USA, it is mainly found in gemstone mines in East Africa, India and Sri Lanka nowadays.
Colourful World of Garnets
The fantastic found of an up to then extremely rare Garnet variety puzzled experts all over the world some years ago. On the Kunene river, on the border between Namibia and Angola, there was the surprising and spectacular discovery of bright orange to red Spessartine Garnets, which were originally named after their occurrence in the German Spessart mountains. Until the legendary mine was discovered in Namibia, Spessartines had existed as mere collectors items or rarities. They were hardly ever used for jewellery because they were so rare. But the found changed the world of jewellery gemstones. From this time on, an exceptionally fine and brightly orange-red gemstone has completed the offered range. The trade name "Mandarine -Garnet" was coined, and the wonderfully orange coloured Fine Garnet became world-famous almost over night. Unfortunately the mine in the remote Namibian mountains could only be exploited for a few years. Prospecting for the gemstones in the isolated bush land became more and more complicated and expensive It had to be expected, then , that the very upstart among the quality gemstones would only be available in limited amounts from the stocks of few cutters. However, another sensation was caused by discovering another occurrence of the orange-coloured treasures, this time in Nigeria. In colour and brilliance they are so similar to the Namibian stones that only experienced experts will be able to tell them apart.
And now let us focus on green Garnets. Green Garnets - do they really exist? Of course! There are even several known green Garnet varieties. First of all, there is Grossularite, which was created by Nature in many fine colours from yellow to green and brown, and which is especially cherished because of the many in-between shades. And earth-colours. Here there was also a sensational found: In the last year of the 20th century large Grossularite occurrences were discovered in Mali. The Mali Garnets are charming because of their high brilliance, which makes even the usually not so popular brown colour attractive and vivid, and the natural appeal is in wonderful harmony especially with ethno-look inspired trends.
Possibly the most famous green Garnet is Tsavorith or Tsavolith, another Grossularite. Tiffanys in New York re-named the stone which had been discovered in 1967 by British geologist Campbell R. Bridges in North-East Tanzania. The emerald-green stone was named after its occurrence near the famous game park Tsavo-National Park. Tsavorith is of a vivid light to velvety deep green and, like all other Garnets, of strikingly high brilliance.
The star among green Garnets is rare Demantoid, a gemstone for connoisseurs and lovers. It shows enormous brilliance, higher even than that of Diamond. Russias leading court jeweller Carl Faberg?loved the brilliant green Garnet from the Urals more than any other stone, and liked to use it in his creations. Nowadays Demantoid turns up more often in the gemstone market because of the new founds in Namibia. Demantoids from Namibia show good colour and brilliance, however, they lack s minor characteristic: the so-called "horsetail-inclusions", fine bushy-shaped inclusions which are the characteristic birthmark identifying Russian Demantoids.
Gemstone Colours for each Fashion Trend
If you love the immaculate naturalness and sun-drenched warm colours of Indian summer, you will fall in love with range of colours displayed by Garnets. Today these stones come mainly from African countries, also from India, Russia, central and south America. The skilled hands of cutters all over the world shape them in many classical forms and more and more also in modern fancy designers cuts. Garnets appeal generally because of their natural and not manipulated beauty, their wide variety of colours and their magnificent brilliance. If you buy Garnet jewellery you can be certain to enjoy this gemstone gift from Nature permanently and without inhibitions.
Like fiery comets in the evening sky there appeared some ten years ago the first Mandarin Garnets in the gemstone trade. Experts and enthusiasts both agreed: the wonderful colours and excellent brilliance of the orange-red treasures are unique indeed. What kind of gemstones are they and where do they come from?
Just close your eyes and dream a little bit: Africa ¡K orange-red is the evening sky in the Northwest of Namibia, over quiet mountains and a lonely river. The next settlement is about nine hours away by car. The temperatures are extreme here: in summer, 40 to 50 degrees centigrade are the rule, while in winter temperatures drop to almost freezing point. Here, far away from any kind of civilisation the Kunene River has for centuries followed its route to along the border between Namibia and Angola through the mountains. This remote and isolated place, one of the last placed untouched by the modern world, is the place where in 1991 the first Mandarin Garnets were found. Embedded in mica and mica slate, at the very same location where they came into existence millions of years ago, there were discovered small crystals of exceptional colour and transparency which gained the experts' attention. Gemmological tests proved that the first theories and speculations had been right: the orange-coloured stones were in fact variations of the rare Spessartine stones, members of the large and colourful Garnet-family. So far Spessartine had been found only in Sri Lanka, Upper Birma, Madagascar, Brazil and Australia as well as in Kenya and Tanzania, but they were rare stones for enthusiasts and collectors and had hardly been used for jewellery. The reason for this moderate situation was simple: they were offered only rarely in really good colour and quality in the gemstone mines. However, the spectacular crystals from Namibia were of an exceptionally fine, intensively bright orange. Some even sparkled in a deep red-orange of the last rays of the light, when the sun has already set beyond the horizon. They were more beautiful and brilliant than anything available before. Almost no inclusions disturb the brilliant appearance of the "imperial garnets¡¨.
Very quickly the rough stones came on the market visa only few gemstone cutters. Mostly the stones were faceted, as the facets best bring out their unique colour and brilliance. Unfortunately the mine on the Kunene River was soon exploited. In the beginning the stones were found there direct at the surface of the mines, but the excavations had to be taken deeper and deeper as time passed on. The results got less and less, while the costs kept increasing. So finally the mine gave up production. Further prospecting in the remote bush region of Namibia would have been far too expensive and too complicated. Traders and gemstone lovers both regretted very much that this gemstone which had managed so quickly to attract an enthusiastic group of fans was only available sparsely from stocks of only few cutters.
A real shooting star
The beautiful gemstone had in a short period of time managed to develop into a real shooting star in the international jewellery sector. There had been some minor disagreements about its name first among gemmologists and gemstone traders. Some called the brilliant orange to orange-red beauties first "Kunene Spessartine¡¨ according to their occurrence, other talked about "Hollandine¡¨. But quite soon the evocative denomination "Mandarin Garnet¡¨ spread throughout the international market. And thus the stone made its successful appearance all around the world. And this very fitting name has remained in use till today ¡V though, fortunately, the occurrence at the Kunene River has not remained the only one. About in April 1994 there appeared again orange-coloured stones on the market, this time from Nigeria. They resembled remarkably to those Mandarin Garnets from Namibia, although experienced experts would be able to note fine differences. Their occurrence is situated in the utmost Southwest of Nigeria, not far away from the neighbouring state of Benin. The mine is located in a former riverbed in the bush land. During the rain season pumps have to be employed in order to draw the water out of the mines. Garnet specialist Thomas Lind from Idar-Oberstein was enthusiastic about the attractively of the new stones: "From Nigeria some beautiful, bright orange Mandarin Garnets have been brought onto the market. Among them there are repeatedly stones which achieve sizes over one carat. We are delighted that they supplement the meanwhile stable offer on the market of this formerly so are stone.¡¨ Now Mandarin Garnet is available once again in reliable amounts, even though top quality stones remain rare.
Orange symbolises joy of life and individuality
What makes Mandarin Garnet so special? First of all there is, of course, its colour, this bright orange, sometimes with brown undertones, in all the range from the colour of ripe peaches to deepest red orange. These are colours which announce energy and joy of life, individuality and spirit of adventure. A person wearing orange has no inhibitions about being noticed, this colour signals self-confidence. It is unmistakably the colour for extroverted people. But there is more to orange than just that. For example, the colour orange plays a very important role in Asian arts, more important than in European art. Asian gods are often dressed in orange robes, and even the sky may be painted orange. Yellow and red, the two colours constituting orange, are not considered opposites in Asia but rather complement each other. Orange is also the colour for the robes of Buddhist monks, cut from a single piece of cloth. Here orange symbolises the change all life is subjected to. Any existence is understood as permanent process of reciprocity between the active male Yang principle and the passive female Yin. Again, both principles are no opposites, but they keep on changing and continually influence each other. Life means change ¡V and orange symbolises this permanent change better than any other colour.
Besides its wonderful colour, however, Mandarin Garnet has additional advantages which make it a truly unique gemstone. On the one hand there is its good hardness. It is an uncomplicated gemstone and makes ideal companion for any situation or event. On the other hand it has a remarkably high refraction of light lending it an exceptional brilliance. Even in unfavourable light conditions small, brilliant cut and inclusion-free Mandarin garnets will sparkle vividly. And in addition there is its rarity. Nobody can predict how long it will ¡V as currently ¡V remain available in reliable quantities. Colour, brilliance, hardness and rarity make this beautiful and easy-to-care-for gemstone something special indeed. Thus on seeing it, individualists with strong sense of style will exclaim: this is my stone!