While it was once just a collector's gem, spessartite--an orange variety of garnet--made its move into the mainstream during the 1990s. Like all garnets, most spessartite garnets are untreated, so the beautiful color and clarity that you see in them is just as nature created it.
|Warm soapy water and a soft brush are ideal for cleaning garnets. Ultrasonic cleaners are usually considered safe for garnet, but steam cleaners should be avoided. Garnet can fracture when exposed to abrupt, extreme temperature changes.|
|The warm, spicy colors of spessartite garnets can range from bright vibrant orange to deep red-orange, pale yellowish-orange, brownish-orange and brownish-red hues. For a garnet to be spessartite, its color must always have some orange and never any purple in it. Spessartite looks different than its reddish pyrope and almandite cousins because it contains manganese and traces of iron. Spessartite also mixes with some of its garnet cousins to make other garnet types, such as the pretty pinkish-orange Malaya garnet. |
|According to GIA, the most "favored" color for spessartite garnet is a vivid, highly saturated slightly reddish-orange color known as "aurora red." It is medium or medium-dark in tone, and anything darker or lighter isn't considered as valued. Large spessartite garnets can be very brilliant and valuable because spessartite's color generally displays well in large sizes. Since new spessartite sources were found in the 1990s, it has become more available to a wider market, though large gemmy stones over 5 carats are still rare and priced accordingly. While spessartite is no longer just a collector's stone, those with famed origins like the Little Three Mine in California and the Rutherford Mines in Virginia can still command higher prices, especially since those locations produce little material and good finds are snatched up my specimen collectors before they ever make it to the lapidary to become cut gems.|
Name Origin and Meaning
Spessartite (also known as spessartine) garnet gets its name from the Spessart area of Bavaria, Germany, where it was found. A spessart is a forest in German.
Discovery and History
Until the 1990s and more recently, when new, larger spessartite sources were found in Nigeria, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Namibia, and Zambia, spessartite garnets were considered just collector's stones. Before that, small mines like the Rutherford Mines in Virginia and the Hercules section of the Little Three Mine in California were the only spessartite sources, and typical of most smaller mining operations, production was low, sporadic, and of varying quality. The Rutherford Mines were mined steadily from the 1880s until around 1912 and again in the 1950s and '60s but have been closed since then.
Spessartite's Offspring: Malaya
Spessartite garnets are usually found in uncommon pegmatite veins, which accounts for the rarity of that stone. It is among the aluminum garnets (along with pyrope and almandite), as opposed to the calcium garnets, like uvarovite, andradite garnets (demantoid), and grossularite garnets (hessonite and tsavorite).
Learn more about spessartite from our JTV Expert series videos! Visit our YouTube page for more on the spessartite stone and other gemstone education.
Instant Savings on Today's Order
when you sign up for JTV email!