The world of garnets is diverse, fascinating, and intense – both in color range and history. And their value is far higher now that we are more educated about the rarer specimens. Given their beauty, durability and collectability, garnet in every variety has become the darling of the gemstone trade.
Garnets occur in a breathtaking array of colors, including shades of orange, green, purple, red, and even color-change. As in all gemstones, chemical composition is responsible for the array of colors and is a particularly complex subject in garnet. But, put simply, the presence of aluminum creates the red and orange hues in the almandine, pyrope and spessartine group and calcium is responsible for the lovely green hues in the grossular, andradite and uvarovite groups. As fascinating as the gemology of garnet is, it is the beauty of these spectacular stones that I’d like to talk about now. Since garnets are a huge mineral group and too large to cover in a single blog, this blog will cover the green garnet varieties which happen to be, in my opinion, among the most beautiful gems in the world.
Considered the most rare and valuable is the demantoid garnet. First discovered in Russia in 1868 in the Ural Mountains, the miners were impressed with this garnets high refractive quality and exceptional brilliance, and immediately referred to it as “demantoid”, from the Dutch word for “diamond”. Demantoid garnet was also known as the “Gem of the Tsars,” and the famous jeweler Peter Carl Faberge frequently used this exceptionally lively garnet in his creations. Demantoid garnet color can range from a bright yellow green to a deep forest green. One of my favorite facts about Demantoid garnet is that it is the only gem I can think of that is made more rare and collectible by the presence of an inclusion. The wispy nature of the characteristic inclusion in damantoid garnet is referred to as a horsetail and once you see a gem with a well-formed inclusion, you will never forget it! Demantoid has recently been found in Namibia but the Russian material is considered the gold standard for this garnet variety and is too rare to be used in mass-produced jewelry and is found only in high-end custom pieces.
Tsavorite garnets are my personal favorite gems of all time…! This luscious green member of the grossular group gets its color imparted by trace amounts of calcium or vanadium. They were discovered in East Africa in the 1960’s by Campbell R. Bridges, a gem prospector and geologist, and, like so many gems, are surrounded by legends of adventure and intrigue. Unable to get a permit from the Tanzanian government to mine the original site, Bridges persisted, following the trail to Kenya, where he found another deposit and obtained a permit.
Interest in this vibrant green garnet from the trade was immediate. Tiffany launched a campaign to promote this new grossular green garnet beauty in 1974, and the president of Tiffany, Sir Henry Platt, christened it Tsavorite, in honor of the Tsavo East National Park in Kenya; a star was born. In color, Tsavorites range from bright apple green to bottle green, sometimes even with a slight bluish cast. They are rare in larger sizes so like demantoid garnet they will not be found in mass-market jewelry. That said the small sizes of tsavorite used as accents or in pave are a practical alternative to emerald and are therefore a great value.
There is one more gorgeous green garnet to consider – mint merelani. Another grossular subgroup of garnet, its hue is a pale, delicate spring green. Like demantoid and tsavorite garnet, merelani is increasingly rare and valuable, hard to find in larger sizes. They are mined from the Merelani Mountains in Tanzania, an area I am extremely familiar with. Africa is my favorite place on earth, most especially Tanzania. My love of all of these beautiful green garnets is due, at least in part, to my love of that splendid part of the world and its wild, untamed beauty.
There is yet more to be discussed about the world of the fabulous garnet. Next blog, I will move past green garnets to Mandarin, rhodolite, malaia, and those magical color-changing garnets.
If you are interested in learning more about garnets, or possibly acquiring them or any other gemstone, my resources and over thirty years of experience in the field of jewelry and gemology can guide you toward a jewel that will delight you with its beauty while gaining in value over time.