Mandarin Garnet Gemstones - Brilliance and intense colors
The first mandarin garnets entered the gemstone market just over 10 years ago, and they appeared like fiery comets seen streaking across the evening skies. All gemstone lovers and dealers were in agreement that the gemstones had a high brilliance and intense colors, which were mainly orange red. So one wonders what type of gemstones they are and where they came from all of a sudden.
You have to be very imaginative in order to understand the beauty of these gemstones. In the North Western part of Namibia, when you look up at the evening sky, it seems to glow with an eerie orange red that seems to sit atop the hills in the horizon, and there is one solitary river flowing down these hills. One can take up to nine hours driving by car in order to get from settlement to another, making it a very desolate place. The temperatures here are very high and they can reach as high as 40 to 50 degrees in the summer. In the winter, they drop to lower than freezing point. This is a place that is segregated from any civilization and the River Kunene, which winds its way down the hills which form the border of Angola and Namibia has been doing so for several centuries. This is where, in 1991, in probably the most remote and desolate area on earth, the first mandarin garnets were found.
These fantastic gemstones were found within the mica and mica schist layers of rock, where they are said to have been formed millions of years ago. The small crystal, which had an unusual clarity and color, immediately attracted the attention of the players in the gemstone world. After gemological analysis, they were confirmed to be very rare orange gemstones that come from the spessartine group; this is a large a very colorful type of garnet family.
Before this time, it was only in Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania, Australia, Brazil, Upper Burma and Sri Lanka that could boast of having spessartines. This group of gemstones is not well known and they are usually the purview of gemstone connoisseurs and collectors. The reason why these gemstones were little known is the fact that it was rare to find fine specimens. The amazing gemstones that were discovered in Namibia, on the other hand, were found in large quantities and all of them were fine in quality. They had an intense yellow color that could only resemble that of the sun. There were some that had a deep orange color that looked like the sun as it went into the final phase during sundown. Gemstone lovers and dealers had never seen gemstones that had such an intense and radiant orange color before. The fact that they did not have any inclusions at all made them all the more desirable.
It was not long before these wonderful creations found their way into the gemstone market. Most of these gemstones were sold in their faceted forms since this was the best way in which to bring out their magnificent brilliance and color. However, and quite sadly, the deposits that were found on the River Kunene were soon depleted. When mining stated, the gemstones were found in the top surface layers, but as time went along, the miners had to deeper and deeper until all of the deposits were completed; the yields continued to drop, and the costs of mining went up, and soon there was nothing more to bring to the surface.
Searching for more deposits in the bushy remote countryside of Namibia soon proved to be too expensive and futile, and so the search stopped. For those who had fallen in love with this gemstone, this was a very sad happening and they could only get access to the gemstones through the few remaining stocks that belonged to a handful of mining centers.
This was a true rocket
After such a short time the amazing beauty of the mandarin garnet gemstones had made them shot up in the market rankings, just like the proverbial rocket. The name of the gemstone was under a lot of controversy at the time. Most dealers and gemologists could not agree on the name, and some called it the Kunene Spessartine, which was due to the place where they were originally found, and others called it the Hollandine, However, after a short period of bickering, they all agreed to call the gemstone the mandarin garnet.
By the time that this orange garnet started to command a visible following on the market, the name mandarin garnet had already been established therefore there was no confusion amongst buyers. This name became the standard and it is the one that is used to this very day. It was around April 1994, that more of these gemstones were found in Nigeria. These specimens from Nigeria had great similarity to those from Namibia, and a buyer could not easily tell the difference; specialists could differentiate between the two. The new deposits were found in the South west area of Nigeria, that which border the country of Benin. The mine is found in a river bed in the bush of that area. This has necessitated the use of pumps to draw out water from the pits during the rainy season.
According to one specialist of this new garnet variety, Thomas Lind, who is based as Idar-Oberstein, the find was truly exciting. He says that the stones are very beautiful, and that they have a radiant orange color. He said that the new deposits had many stones that came in sizes that were about one carat in weight. The deposits from Nigeria truly boosted the dwindling supplies that came from Namibia, and this saw the prices of the gemstone stabilize on the market. It is now possible to get mandarin garnets in large quantities, but those that are truly exceptional are still quite rare.
Orange is a color of individuality and Joie de vivre
One would wonder what is so special about the mandarin garnet. To start with, there is the vibrant and intense orange color; the color may have slight undertones of brown. The stones come in a wide range of subtle hues, which range from deep red-brown to the color of ripe peaches. These are colors that are normally associated with Joie de vivre and energy, readiness to take risks and individuality. Once a person is seen to wear orange, he or she declares that she is energetic and daring, and this is a color that exudes confidence. You will find that this is a color that is loved by extroverts. However, the color orange symbolizes more than just that. In Asian art, the color orange is used more widely than it is used in European art. The Asians will dress up some of their gods in orange robes. Again the colors of yellow and red, which combine to give orange are considered to be related, in Asia, as opposed to being opposites.
The significance of the color orange in Asia, can be seen in the fact that Buddhist monks wear robes of this color. Orange is considered to be a symbol of the life as a whole. It is also considered to be the perfect balance between the dominant male Yang and the more subtle and passive Yin female. To Asians, the two are not opposite per se, but they come together and interweave at all times. Life is full of change, but the orange color symbolizes a constant state as opposed to many other colors.
There are many other virtues that make the mandarin garnet a very special gemstone, apart from the fact that it has mesmerizing colors. One of these is the fact that it has a high hardness value of 7.5 on the Mohs scale. It is a simple and unique gemstone that can be worn to any occasion. It also has a very high refractive index and this is why it has a strong brilliance. This is a gemstone that will truly sparkle even in the dimmest of lighting, and if one has a specimen without any inclusions, it will truly be a wonderful gemstone to wear even to candlelight dinners. Another virtue is the fact that it is very rare to find. It is not possible to predict just how long the available stocks will last in the market. The color, hardness, luminosity and rarity of this gemstone makes it a truly unique gemstone even among casual buyers. It is easy to look after and one does not have to worry that it will get damaged. Those who boast of being individualistic in nature will take great pleasure in wearing this gemstone whenever they go for important functions. It says that one truly stands out above all the rest.
A profile of the mandarin garnet gemstone
Jaimeen Shah, is a gemstone specialist at the New Era Gems store in Grass Valle, California, and says that there is a special test that helps in determining whether the spessartine, which is orange in color can actually be classified as being Mandarin. The first thing that one does is to fill a glass with Fanta. This is the orange soda made by the Coca Cola Company. The nest thing to do is to dip in the orange spessartine, which is being passed off as a genuine mandarin garnet into the glass. If it is the real gemstone, then it should completely disappear and will not be seen. If it has strong brown or red undertones, then it will still be visible and will not be the classic mandarin garnet.
This is not really a scientific test, since even the fire opal, which is very popular due to its fiery orange color, will also disappear when put in a glass of Fanta; but he has made a clear point. For any garnet to be classified as being a true Mandarin, then it has to have the true orange color that is seen in a glass of Fanta. This is just the same way that a true jadeite should be Perl green. This is the joy of using high quality branded substances to tell whether a gemstone is real or not, pun intended.
However, not all the garnets in this case, will pass under the Fanta test. There are some garnets that have the deep orange of a fireball, and these are sometimes passed off as mandarin garnets. When testing this variety, you should ignore the red and concentrate on the orange and see if it will disappear for it to pass the test. One buyer happened to ask a dealer in Tucson whether the strongly red garnets on sale were actually mandarin garnets. The dealer was adamant that they were truly mandarin garnets, and the buyer got offended and opted not to buy them.
The Fanta test for a true mandarin garnet is very new, and it started being used after a deposits of pure orange mandarin garnets was found in Nigeria. In 1994, there was a flooding on the market of Namibian mandarin garnets and the way they were gobbled up in the market is a reminder of what happened with the Paraiba Tourmaline. The prices of the Paraiba did not go very high, but they increased and then stabilized at a certain point. One can remember that you could get a stone going for a princely sum of 1,000 dollars per carat, when you got a very large stone. This is a price that is very high for a garnet, and at the time, the dollar was very strong, meaning that the stones got a very high price. California.
The traditional color ideals for mandarin garnet were truly challenged by those that were found in Namibia. In fact, many people say that the classic color of these gemstones is that found in stones originating from Madagascar and California. This means that stones which has a burnt orange or hot ember color were the true mandarin garnets. But shah has a very different opinion, saying that the Fanta orange variety is sold at a higher price than those that look like a fireball.
It is hard to say whether this standard of pricing mandarin garnets will be permanent or not. The future of this gemstone depends on the supply of those that have the Fanta orange color. A short while ago, there were other pure orange specimens that were found in Tanzania and this has increased the supply in the market. Shah says that there is an indication that the orange supply will continue to be stable for the next year or so. He says that caution should be exercised since the gemstones found in Tanzania are alluvial deposits, and these do not have a very long lifespan. However, there is no reason why people should not enjoy buying the orange spessartines while the stocks still last.
The tradeoff from Tanzania
The mandarin garnets that have the Fanta orange color are purely those that come from Africa. One can see that after the deposits that were found in Namibia dwindled out, those that were found in Nigeria came to the rescue; this was in 1998. One can say that those that come from Nigeria may have a little too much red in their color, but one cannot deny that the primary color of the specimens is orange. There are companies such as Barker & Company, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, who still specialize in stocking those that come from Nigeria. However, there is a very strong demand for the orange Nigerian stones, and according to Ann Barker, this has driven the prices of these gemstones to a place where they are now memo goods, as opposed to being cash-and-carry ones. This is the reason why Barker is now very careful when it comes to buying the rough stones. For most people, the Nigerian variety has a lot of depth and intensity of color. But those who want the Fanta shades that originally came from Namibia, them the new gemstones that come from Tanzania are a good tradeoff. According to shah, this is the color of a true mandarin garnet.
Shah, however, notes that there is one major drawback affecting the mandarin garnets from Tanzania. The stones from this region are not nearly as clean as those that come from Namibia and Nigeria. So one would have to choose between having a fiery orange mandarin garnet which is perfectly clear, from Namibia, or take one that has a Fanta color from Tanzania, and which may have some fuzziness in its color. The opinion of buyers on this fact is quite divided. There are jewel who would rather get stones that are clear, but not if the Fanta color, and others who prefer the opposite. It is an irony to note that jewelers from both sides are not buying as much of the mandarin garnet as they used to in the past, even the Fanta orange variety.
There is no doubt that the pricing structure of these gemstones is proving to be challenging to buyers from America, who have to compete with those from Europe and Asia, where the currencies are much stringer. Shah says that the saturated orange gemstones are favored by the Japanese and they are willing to go to any length in order to outbid the Americans at gemstone auctions.
It is no small wonder, says one buyer, that the prices in Tucson, for a tasty large mandarin garnet, would be quoted at about 1,000 dollars per carat, and in a short while, the price of an eye-clean specimen, which weighed in at about 3 carats would fetch a price of about 800 dollars. This is only applicable to top notch specimens. For those who do not mind a few inclusions of gas bubbles, the gemstones can be bought at about half this price.
So what are the jewelers who do not have large sums of money do in order to get these gemstones? One of the designers, Tom Dailing of Lee Ayers Jeweler in Stevens Point Wisconsinís, one way is to avoid going for the pure orange varieties and instead shop for those that have earth tones; these are the ones that have a cinnamon or rich paprika tone. These mandarin garnets will go for as little as 50 to 100 dollars per carat, allowing jewelers to buy tons at a time, and these go well with fall fashion.
According to dailing, this is doing more than just having a virtue out of necessity. He says that he does not like the mandarin garnet that looks like fruit juice and he knows that the market would respond well to those that have a Sunkist color. However, there are those customers who love the brunt orange colors, and this is great for the customers, and also saves the jewelers a lot of money when buying the raw material.
However, another jeweler from Petaluma, California. Debbie Quainlan, is still feeling the pressure. Most of the customers at her store prefer the pure orange color, and it is very expensive when she has to replace goods. She wonders if there are no substitutes for the mandarin garnet, such as the fire opal. This is however a tentative question since it seems like a true replacement for the mandarin garnet id not about to be found in the near future. The mandarin garnet is very hard and the fire opal cannot match this. She therefore usually pays the premium prices on offer so that she can get the rough gemstone, and hope that the customer requesting the stone will be able to handle the high price that will be a result.
It is quite a rarity that such a young gemstone can command such an attention on the market; this is why they say that the gemstone came like a comet from the skies, but one that will always fly by within a short period of time. Given that there are many other deposits being found in Africa, it can only be hoped that the gemstone will soon stabilize when it comes to pricing and that the American buyers will not have to feel the pinch when buying the gemstones. The fact that the color orange is held in high esteem in Asia may be the reason why the jewelers from the region do not have a ceiling when it comes to bidding for the gemstones, but were the supply to stabilize, then the pricing would come down to a level that jewelry dealers from all parts of the word can buy this gemstone at standardized prices.