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Garnets and the other Garnets

Posted by Yvonne Raley on

January is garnet month, or so the Jeweler’s Association says, at any rate.  And if you are thinking red or pink garnet, then this would be a very short blog entry.  It would end right here.
Luckily, garnet is a lot more interesting than that once you get away from the reds.  While there are, supposedly, a lot of distinctions to be made with regard to red garnet - pyrope, almandine, rhodolite - in the words of my favorite gemstone dealer, D.:
“It’s all the same stuff, it comes from the same places and it gets mined by the truckload.”
The good stuff, in my opinion and in that of many others, are Spessartite and Mandarin garnet, Tsavorite, and Demantoid.  Most of these are found in Africa, mainly Kenya and Tanzania, but now also Nigeria (Demantoid and Spessartite also occur outside of Africa).  And all of them are recent additions to the gemstone market.  Insiders think that these garnets are now where Tanzanite was thirty years ago: they are already fairly hard to find, but still reasonable in price because the mass market is barely aware of them.  But give it time and this will change. 
Garnet is also interesting is that it is never treated.  It doesn’t need it, for one, and secondly, none of the treatments that have been tried have actually enhanced the way it looks.  So there hasn’t been any point.
1. Spessartite and Mandarin garnet: the distinction between these two is fluid.  The lighter more orangy stuff is called “Mandarin,” the darker, more brownish gems are Spessartite (named after the Spessart forest in Germany where it was first found).  I’ve only ever seen Spessartite and some very heavily occluded Mandarin.  But garnet should not have a lot of inclusions, consequently, that stuff is very cheap, starting at perhaps $8 a carat.  The nicer stuff trades for 10 times that or more.  Larger sizes (say 3-10 carats) are around at the moment, but as with all gems, the price per carat changes with size.
Tsavorite Parcel from Nigeria
Anecdote: when I bought my first larger Spessartite parcel last fall (see picture above), the dealer quoted me a ridiculously low price.  I saw that his tray contained rather a large number of bigger size pieces.  So I asked if he was sure about the low price.  He said “yes” and so I took out all the big and clear stuff.  I could tell he was not happy, but a price is a price.  At the end of the transaction, he said: “you know you got a good deal.”  He was right.
Periodically, I list Spessartite earrings and rings on my site.  They all come from that dealer.  If it is at all your color, I recommend these to you as among my very best buys.
2. Tsavorite: these belong in the Grossular garnet variety, where Grossular is the occluded, non-gem grade stuff, and Tsavorite the clean stuff.  It is named after Tsavo National Park in Kenya where it was first found.  Already, Tsavorite is traded at a significantly higher price than Spessartite, and anything over a carat is hard to find.  Considerably more durable and cleaner than emerald but similar in coloring, Tsavorite is a great buy.  The darker colors are more highly valued than the lighter ones, but the medium green ones I offer out in my stud earring sections are a good buy.  The Tsavorite in those earrings are not the very best available, but they are an excellent value for the money.  I will try, this spring, to get some other, larger pieces.  But they will definitely cost more.
Tsavorite Garnet Stud Earrings
3. Demantoid: this is the most expensive garnet variety, and the only color I’ve ever actually seen it in is an olive green.  Demantoid is very clear, and comes in all green varieties from more yellowish green to more emerald green.  I don’t have any because it costs even more than Tsavorite, so there’s no point for me to stock it.  The olive colors are cheaper, but not as nice, the good stuff, again, is the clear stuff with fewer yellow overtones.  Wholesale prices are $100-$150 per carat for the small sizes.

2.55ct VVS-VS Demantoid Garnet
Demantoid Garnet Parcel from

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