Spessartite garnet, also known as Mandarin garnet, perhaps an unknown name, but the gemstone is certainly easy to detect. Known for its orange to red color, spessartite garnet is affordable, beautiful, and bright.
When set in beautiful jewelry, this gemstone can hold its own against any other gemstone out there. Do you want to know more about this beautiful stone? Let’s take a look at what distinguishes spessartite garnet and what you need to consider when buying your jewelry with this gem.
What is a spessartite garnet?
Garnet gemstones are a group of gemstones that share common qualities. They are all closely related minerals, but they can have different chemical compositions and colors. They are called garnet due to their typically reddish color; the ancient Latin word “granatum” means “dark red”.
However, this does not mean that all garnets are red. Garnets can come in several other colors such as burgundy, orange, brown, green, and black, although red and orange are the most popular and sought-after varieties.
There are six recognized species of garnets: spessartite, pyrope, almandine, grossularite, andradite and uvarovite. They can also be separated into eleven varieties according to their color. Almandine garnets are the most popular for their pure red color. Grossularite garnets are also quite popular with their lemon yellow to mint green colors.
Spessartite garnets usually have a beautiful orange color and often also have iron impurities that can give the spessartite a more reddish tint. This is so common, in fact, that pure orange spessartites are not so common and most stones exhibit red, yellow or brown tints. The most valued type of spessartite garnet is fire-red with orange tints.
Why is it called spessartite?
Spessartite bears its name thanks to the places where it was first found and identified, the Spessart Mountains in Bavaria, Germany. These gemstones are most commonly found in granite pegmatites, as well as gneiss, quartzites, or rhyolites.
Spessartine is an alternative term for spessartite. Both mean the same thing, only “spessartine” is more widely used in the gem trade, while “spessartine” is more common in the mineral trade.
Is spessartite garnet rare?
Spessartite used to be considerably rarer before the 1960s and was considerably more valuable. However, in the 1960s, a large deposit of spessartine was found in the Umba River Valley of Tanzania and Kenya, so it was readily available.
Today, it is relatively affordable in comparison, but can still have high prices depending on the quality of the stone.
How to choose the color of spessartite garnet?
Reddish spessartite garnets are the most valued variety even though they are naturally orange and require inclusions to become redder. The reason for this is mainly that red garnets are in demand and sought after, which makes them valuable in general and that principle transfers to spessartite garnets as well. However, purely orange spessartite garnets are quite rare and valuable.
When choosing the color, look for a uniform coloration and bright shades. A bright and dynamic color is what you would want from a spessartite garnet. There are also pale varieties, which show a faint orange or red color, but these do not have the vitality you would expect from a spessartite garnet.
That said, when choosing the color, go for the color that you prefer and that you think looks good on you.
Clarity of spessartite garnet
All garnet gemstones are generally quite clear. They are almost transparent and exhibit a magnificent glassy shine. Pyrope and almandine garnets generally lack inclusions visible to the naked eye, which gives them a very high clarity, but spessartite garnets exhibit inclusions visible quite often.
When purchasing your stone, look carefully to see if there are any visible inclusions. You would be looking for a stone that is clean for the eyes, that has no easily visible defects.
Another interesting thing is that, although spessartite garnets can often have many inclusions, these inclusions are not always considered a bad thing.
The most common inclusions in spessartite garnets are the wavy feathers due to the liquid drops that have been trapped in the gemstones. Such patterns are especially common in spessartite garnets found in Brazil or Sri Lanka.
Some similar inclusions in spessartites can cause asterism, which is a star effect that appears on the surface of the stone due to the inclusions it contains. This star effect is really appreciated for its rarity.
Spessartite garnet cut
This gemstone looks stunning when faceted, as it allows for better light performance and increases the brightness of the stone. Spessartite garnet is typically cut into brilliant cuts or other popular gemstone cuts such as emerald, oval, princess, trillion and heart.
Spessartite gemstones are generally cut like most other garnets, in traditional shapes that can fit the most common types of jewelry. Due to their inclusions, spessartites must be cut more carefully than other garnets to hide their inclusions or to give them a more interesting and beautiful look. Either way, you can expect to see spessartite garnets in all traditional gemstone cuts.
Spessartite garnet carat sizes
Like all other garnets, spessartites are found and available in many weights and sizes in carats. Some garnets, such as demantoid or tsavorite, are usually smaller, but spessartites can be found in fairly large sizes. On average, a spessartite garnet can be expected to weigh about 2 to 5 carats.
Spessartite garnet in jewelry
As mentioned above, spessartite garnets, like all other garnets, are suitable for all types of jewelry, looking stunning in rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, charms and pendants. Due to their earth tones, they suit any skin tone and look stunning on anyone.
Because of their brightness, spessartite garnets look stunning when set on well-crafted jewelry. When surrounded by diamonds, they have a beautiful appearance and an attractive shine.
In larger or smaller sizes, in redder or orange colors, spessartites can create a beautiful composition when combined with the right metal and design.
However, when it comes to engagement rings, spessartites or other garnets are not really recommended. That is because they have a hardness of about 7 on the Mohs scale, which makes them moderately hard, but not hard enough to last for decades in an engagement ring.
Cleaning and caring for spessartite garnet jewelry
Cleaning a spessartite gemstone is not much more difficult or complicated than cleaning other similar gemstones.
Warm, soapy water with a mild, non-toxic soap is usually enough to properly clean a spessartite. Always rinse and dry the stone well after washing, to avoid soap stains and other residues on the surface.
However, when it comes to storing your spessartite garnet, it should also be done with a little care. As a 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale, spessartites are significantly softer than diamonds and other precious stones, so they can easily be scratched if stored together. Always store your spessartites separately from harder stones or at least keep them wrapped in a cloth for extra protection.