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Demantoid Gemstones - Variety of Andradite


One of the most brilliant gemstones in the world is the Demantoid, although it was not very well known until recently; it was a purview of gemstone collectors and connoisseurs. In strict terms, this is a green garnet, and can also be called the star of all green garnets available. The name Demantoid can be translated to mean Diamond-like, and its brilliance is a good reason for the stone to bear such a name. The Dutch are the ones who came up with the name and they did so with a reference to the outstanding sparkly quality of the gem; it has a lot of fire and brilliance. There are people who claim that this gemstone continues to glow even when it is put in the dark, after a period in the light.

This is a gemstone that is sometimes referred to as the Demantoid Garnet, because it belongs to the large garnet family of stone; in reality, it is one variety of Andradite, which is a garnet mineral. However, this gemstone is a little more than that; it happens to be one of the most precious of all gemstones, and it is also the most expensive variety of garnets. The fact that this is a rare gemstone, and also the fact that it has a high luminous characteristic, make the Demantoid one of the highly esteemed gemstones. This is a gemstone that has a high refractive index, ranging between 1.880 and 1.889. It also has a high dispersion; this means that when light does in through one of the facets, it is quickly broken down into the various colors of the rainbow. The Demantoid is very good at this characteristic and at times it is able to surpass the dispersion of a diamond.

The Demantoid has a wide spectrum of colors, and these include the various hues of green; the colors range from a sigh yellow green a slight brown green all the way to a golden sheen. The most precious color of Demantoid is the deep emerald green, which is very rare indeed. This is a gemstone that is both unusual and fine, but usually it is only found in small carat weights; the large Demantoid gemstones are actually very rare to find. After cutting from the raw, you will find that only a few stones get to weigh more than 2 carats and the high majority do not go beyond a single carat. So when you come across a piece of jewelry that sports a Demantoid garnet, then it will normally be made using small stones.

This is a gemstone favored by the star jeweler in Russia

In the wonderful and mesmerizing world of gemstones, there have been many gemstones that have appeared looking like shooting stars; this is because they have quickly vanished from the market within a very short time. This is something that would also have happened to the Demantoid; this was changed by a single goat herder in Namibia, who was simply going through his business one day. You shall see how this herder changed the story of Demantoid on the gemstone market.

In 1868, in the famous Ural Mountains of Russia, the Demantoid was discovered, and it soon became one of the most demanded gemstone in the world. It scintillated, like a comet, in one of the leading jewelers workshops in famous cities like Paris, St. Petersburg and New York. One thing that should be noted is the fact that the Russian start jewel designer, Carl Faberge, loved this gemstone since it was very brilliant. He would include it in all of his most precious designs. However, after the chaos that came with the First World War, the Demantoid garnet started to fade very quickly from the jewelry world. At that time, it could only be found, occasionally, in the gemstone trade, and when it was found, it would be placed in an item that was considered to be second-hand jewelry; sometimes it could be found in the stocks that remained from paces where it was first found in the Mountains of the Urals. It was also possible, at that time, to find rare occurrences of Demantoid in other areas in the world, such as Korea, in 1975, and in the Congo. However, the quality of Demantoid found in these places was only suitable for collectors and not for making jewelry. However, in the middle of the 1990s, this situation was rapidly changed; a new despot of gemstones was found in Namibia by a goat herder, and the seam also contained Demantoid.

The story of how Demantoid was found in Namibia is quite thrilling. The setting for the story is the area known as Damara, which is found near the Matterhorn of Africa, which was also called the Spitzkoppe. This is a vast area which has a steppe topography, and this is one of the driest areas in the region, hot scorched by the sun. When it is viewed from far away, the so-called black mountains are hidden by a blue haze; this land is quite harsh and dy. However, for a very long time, t has hidden a lot of treasure, like the proverbial Aladdin’s cave. It seems that millions of years ago, the earth had shot up liquid magma from deep in its bowels, and this has quickly becomes solid, as soon as it reached the surface. As time went along, the weathering of wind and other elements soon removed all traces of the surface layers until only the Spitzkoppe, a large granite mountain, was left behind. Hidden in the mountain were rich deposits of gemstones. Before the year 1996, in December, nobody had even the faintest idea that there was such a rich deposit if gemstones in the mountain. So one day, the goat herder went to this area, and he started seeing sparkly stones, which he collected because they seemed to be noteworthy. As soon as he got back to the village, he started showing the stones around, and word quickly spread about his find. It was not ling before experts flocked to the village and they all realized what a great find the herder had discovered.

It was not long before the Namibian government gave out concessions for people to start gemstone mines on the mountain. These rare pieces of treasure had to be removed from the parent rock very carefully, by means of hand-held picks. This care was taken so that very little of the raw material was lost during the mining process, to ensure that large gemstones would be obtained after mining.

How the value of Demantoid gemstone is affected by the horsetail

The Demantoid specimens that come from Namibia came in various color; from an intense blue green to a vibrant light green. As with all Demantoid gemstones, they have a highly brilliant characteristic. These gemstones are fairly hard, with a value that is just below 7 on the Mohs scale, and this makes them very popular for making jewelry. However, these specimens from Namibia, lack a very important feature, which is said to belong to only the true Demantoid variety. When viewed under a microscope, the true Demantoid is said to have very small inclusions that look like a horsetail; those coming from Namibia do not have these inclusions. The inclusions are of tiny crystals threads bearing Chrysolite, and they are seen to radiate outwards from the center of the gemstone. This is quite a fallacy given that inclusions are not normally desired, yet they were used to determine whether a gemstone was a true Demantoid. Those from Namibia were very clear, but because they did not have these inclusions, they were termed to be not true Demantoid garnets and their value dropped on the market.

The presence of the horsetail is not only important in classifying a Demantoid as true of not, it also determines the value. If there are pronounced inclusions, then the value of the gemstone goes up. This is quite a surprising turn of events since it is normal for the clarity of a gemstone to increase its value; the less the inclusions, the more valuable the gemstone should be. However, this is quite the opposite when you consider the presence of the horsetail in a Demantoid garnet. When an inclusion is quite noticeable, and has a beautiful formation, then the value of the Demantoid will go up dramatically; collectors are ready and willing to pay a high price for such a gemstone.

If someone gives you a Demantoid, then you should probably look through it with a microscope; this is when you can see the inclusions. For all the stones that come from Russia, it is a foregone conclusion that you will find the inclusions within the crystal, and these will have to look like the true tail of a horse in order to be of value. Once the fibrous wisps of inclusions are seen, then you definitely know the origin of the stone. This is a finger print of nature that will also indicate to you that you are truly holding a very rare and valuable gemstone in the palm of your hand. This nature of the stone will be very apparent when it comes to the pricing of the stone. Although not as brilliant as those from Namibia, a Demantoid that comes from Russia will still be highly priced than one, which is emerald green, coning from Namibia.

A profile of Demantoid gemstones

In 1868, Twenty Eight years after the Demantoid was discovered, a famous and pioneer gemologist, Max Bauer, wrote that the Demantoid is one of the gemstones that may never earn the full status that it truly deserves. He truly admired this gemstone, but he also thought that it was too small, relatively soft when compared to a diamond, and also too scarce to let it get the merit it deserved and would only arouse curiosity within the market.

At almost the same period in time, another gemology pioneer and writer, George Frederick Kunz, just happened to be exploring the Ural Mountains of Russia, which is the main area where Demantoid was found at the time, was buying all the Demantoid stones that he could lay his hands on. Kunz was the leading gemstone buyer at the world’s premier jeweler, Tiffany’s, and happened to be on leave; his trip was financed by a collector and banking tycoon, J. Piermont Morgan, who was also a true collector of gemstones.

For more than 10 years, at the time, Kunz was devoted to this green garnet from Russia, to an extent that the jeweler, Tiffany’s, made more use of this gemstone in the making of their pieces, than any other jeweler at the time. Actually, the Demantoid was always associated with jewelry pieces that came from Tiffany’s in the nineteenth century as it was with tsavorite in the late twentieth century. The tsavorite is known to be a distant relative of the green grossular garnet, which was first found in East Africa, 100 years after the Demantoid was discovered in Russia. In fact, it is said that the Demantoid was very popular amongst the top jewelers in France and England, and also with the Russian jeweler, Faberge. One thing of note, is the fact that the Demantoid owes most of its popularity with gemstone lovers today, to the Tiffany mystique. This is despite the situation that has led to very low amounts of the gemstone being mined from the Russian Ural Mountains for at least 65 years.

It is due to the devotion by Kunz that led to the popularity of Demantoid, and this is still retained to this very day; this popularity is odd since this is not a gemstone that is easily available. One jewelry historian, known as Joseph Gill, says that perhaps only 10,000 pieces of jewelry made in the Victorian Era made use of the Demantoid, which is a very small proportion when compared to the total number of jewelry pieces that were made during this period. He says that given the fuss that there is about the Demantoid today, one would never guess that there were very small amounts available at the time that it made its mark in the jewelry world. So one wonders why there is a lot of fuss about a gemstone that is very rare; the answer to this can be found in the name, and this is the reason why it is so popular amongst connoisseurs.

One that glitters more than a diamond

One of the downsides that affect almost all garnets is the fact that they have a very low dispersion of light; this is the characteristic where the gemstone separates light into the spectral components, since each of the wavelengths will bend to a different degree when it goes through the crystal. The Demantoid, a member of the Andradite family of minerals, is one of the garnets that was given a very high dispersion, one that even a diamond, one of the most prized gemstones in the world, would be envious of.

There is very little amazement that the first people to sell this gemstone aptly called it Demantoid, which means Diamond-like. The Dutch word for a diamond is ‘Demant.’ Now if you are wondering why the Dutch word was used instead of the English one, you should remember that Amsterdam holds the prestigious position of being the leading diamond cutting center, at around the time when this fiery garnet came to the jewelry world.

This new garnet was said to have a very fiery brilliance, although it could only be found in small sizes; it edged out the emerald and the Peridot, which at the time, were the most brilliant gemstones that came in green colors. According to Gill, the Demantoid was at one time referred to as the Olivene or Uralian emerald, on the market. This is the reason why, most of the jewelry pieces that were made during the Victorian ear, especially between 185 and 1915, were made using this fiery gemstone. Actually, according to history, the Demantoid was almost fully linked to jewelry pieces that were made during the Victorian era.

As it was, the Demantoid turned out to be a very lucky gemstone. England and America had just discovered naturalism that was inspired by the Darwinian theory of evolution. There was a huge fascination with how brutal nature could be, and this inspired the designing of jewelry at the time; you would find many prices that used flowers, birds, fish and reptiles as their motifs. The fact that the color green is associated with nature, most jewelers used green gemstones when making these motifs. Given that motifs required that many small stones were used in the design, all other stones could not be that great. This is where the Demantoid came in, and it was used to create some of the most brilliant motifs ever seen. In the late nineteenth century, larger sizes of Demantoid would have featured prominently in the jewelry world, but there was a very small supply of large stones, most of the Demantoid garnets could only be found in sizes that were smaller than 2 carats.

One cannot forget the telltale inclusion

The Demantoid garnet is one of the gemstones that has a higher value, when there are more inclusions in the gemstone; the other is the jardin emerald. The inclusions in the Demantoid are really aesthetic, and are highly valued just as the color and brilliance is. One would not believe it, but the value of this gemstone actually increases when there are more inclusions in it. These horsetail inclusions are described as bundles of Chrysolite, which is a type of asbestos, and these tend to spray out from the central chromite crystals in a curve resembling the tail of a horse; hence the name.

There have been yellow green garnets that have come from the Italian Alps which have this distinctive inclusion feature, but this is so rare that most gemstone dealers, simply consider the horsetail to be the birthmark of all the green garnets that come from the Ural Mountains of Russia. One gemologist warns that technically this should not be so, and it is not conclusive that a Demantoid with this feature will have come from the Urals. It is simply a good indicator, and if one wants to know for sure then a chemical analysis of the Demantoid should be done.

One may wonder why there is so much fuss about this one type of inclusion; one would wonder whether it really matters whether the Demantoid really came from Russia. The simple answer would be yes. This is simply because of the mystique that is associated with Demantoid garnets as having come from the Ural Mountains of Russia. The Mountains only produce very small amounts of pink topaz, emerald and alexandrite and it is for this reason that the Demantoid is said to be a paragon of this area. The Demantoid garnets coming from the Urals have a certain prestige simply because they come from this area.

However, it does not mean that it is only the presence of inclusions that determine the actual value of the Demantoid. It is simply because the presence of the horsetail help in differentiating between Demantoid specimens that come from Czechoslovakia, Mexico, Arizona, and most recently from Namibia, which do not have this feature; even most of those that come from the Italian Alps do not have this feature. Another feature that differentiates these gemstones is their color. Those that do not come from Russia have a noticeable yellow hue, which is due to the presence of iron, and not chromium. This has led people to suggest that they should be called topazolite, which is the true greenish yellow Andradite mineral.

Sales Record

On one day in April, during the record-holding 12 million dollar jewelry sale at Christie’s in Hong Kong, of the 325 items that were put on sale, Lot 1261, would not have been said to be the most valuable. However, this was a belle époque ring which had a 4 carat, oval cut, Demantoid as its centerpiece. The gemstone was surrounded by rose-cut and old-mine diamonds. This was among the rarest rings in the whole collection, and also the most unusual. It truly plucked at the strings of the soul. It had a pre-sale value of about 40,000 dollars but it eventually sold for a whopping 48,000 dollars. Even if this would be a paltry amount when compared to some of the monies that people pay out I order to own jewelry pieces that are made of jadeite and emerald, it was truly an amazing price for a green garnet to fetch at such an auspicious sale. It is hard to think about someone paying that kind of money for an Andradite, when usually these stones go for a top value of about 4,000 dollars per carat.

One could say that this was because the ring had been made at the turn of the century, in France and therefore had a great vintage However, there are those who say that this was because of the superior clarity and the intense green color of the gemstone, as opposed to those who thought that it was due to the fact that it was set in diamonds; these factors led to the ring having a full page to itself in the catalogue.

It was the Asian collectors who valued the gemstone for these factors and they started a small bidding war. At the end of this war, the gavel fell, and the green garnet had a record pries of about 10,000 dollars per carat, and the rest going to the setting. The fact that the stone was very beautiful, was quite rare and had an impressive size of 4 carats may have made sense when the byers were bidding for it. It would be easy for the Russian Demantoid to get a very popular following if it could be found in more quantities that have such a wonderful size.

The promise made by Russia

There has been an increased search for larger Demantoid specimens in Russia, launched by a group of Russian geologists, so that the gemstone can get the true attention that it deserves. The geologists have been to all parts of their home country as they look for new sources of this gemstone. They have been to the cold mountains found in the Arctic Circle, all the way down to the peninsulas of the Pacific Ocean. It is due to this adamant search that the production of Russian Demantoid has increased. This had been frozen as permafrost for most of this century, but the production has significantly increased. Once again, there is a small trickle of Russian Demantoid coming from the country, and this trickling can be likened to a torrent when you consider how rare Andradite is. In the last year alone, there were only 5,000 carats of Russian Demantoid delivered to the market. This is a small drop in the pond when you consider the high amounts of Rhodolite garnet which are being mined in Tanzania, and which mark a 20 year high, even as the supply of green Demantoid seems to receiver. There is a hope that there will be more of this rare gemstone hitting the market soon.

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