Hessonite Garnet Value, Price, and Jewelry Information
Also known as the “cinnamon stone,” hessonite is the yellow-orange to reddish orange variety of grossular garnet. Hessonites can make beautiful, inexpensive jewelry stones.
For information on quality factors for hessonite and other garnets, consult our garnet buying guide.
The International Gem Society (IGS) has a list of businesses offering gemstone appraisal services.
|Is a Variety of||Grossular|
|Colors||Orange, yellow-orange to reddish orange, sometimes a pinkish coloration.|
|Luster||Vitreous to resinous.|
|Polish Luster||May be vitreous.|
|Hardness||6.5 - 7|
|Specific Gravity||3.4-3.71; usually near 3.65|
|Enhancements||Fracture filling (rare).|
|Transparency||Transparent to translucent.|
|Absorption Spectrum||Light toned hessonites may show no spectrum. More saturated orange gems may have bands at 4070 and 4030.|
|Formula||Ca3Al2Si3O12, presence of Mn2+ in distorted cubic coordination and Fe3+ creates orange color.|
|Optics||N = 1.730-1.757. May show anomalous birefringence.|
|Etymology||From the Greek hesson for “inferior,” because hessonite’s hardness is lower than that of other garnet varieties.|
|Inclusions||Crystal inclusions (apatite, calcite, diopside, spinel, zircon). May show a roiled, “heat wave” effect. See “Identifying Characteristics” below.|
Before the discovery and popularization of emerald-green tsavorite in the late 1960s to 1970s, orangish hessonite was the most popular gem variety of the unpopular grossular garnets. Even its name (including an archaic variation, essonite) reflected its inferior reputation in the gem world. Hessonites can indeed have a lower hardness than other garnets and may require a bit more care as jewelry stones.
However, fashions change. In the 1990s, the discovery of bright orange mandarin garnets, a variety of spessartite, saw an increased interest in orange gems. While mandarin garnets are rare and expensive, hessonites offer a more readily available, relatively inexpensive option. In addition, a renewed demand for earth tone jewelry also increased interest in these gems.
Hessonite’s orange may range from honey yellow to a reddish-brown, hence its cinnamon moniker. In past centuries, hessonites were one of several varied gems called jacinth or hyacinth. (In modern times, these terms receive little use but most commonly refer to orange-red to red-brown zircon).
Sometimes, hessonites show a pinkish tone. In Asbestos, Quebec, miners have found pinkish orange crystals among the asbestos.
In contemporary Navaratna nine-gem jewelry settings of Hindu and other traditions, hessonite frequently represents Rahu, the ascending lunar node.
Usually included, sometimes heavily, some hessonites may also contain eye visible inclusions. However, unless they affect structural integrity, such inclusions don’t usually detract from hessonite’s value.
Hessonites may display a visual effect that resembles roiled or disturbed water within the stone. This roiled appearance has also been referred to as a “heat wave” or “whisky in water” effect. Although similar effects may occur in other gemstones, its appearance in a garnet may help confirm its identification as hessonite. Such gems may appear more translucent than transparent. (Note: For an example of this effect in a honey yellow hessonite, see Quiz 2 in our Gemstone Identification Quizzes).
However, please note that some relatively recent discoveries of hessonites lack this roiled effect. These include specimens from Afghanistan and Orissa, India. These gems have greater transparency than roiled specimens. So, the absence of a roiled effect in a garnet may not rule out hessonite.
Scientists have synthesized numerous garnet varieties, including grossulars. However, synthetic grossulars, including hessonites, aren’t likely to be found in jewelry use. For more information on other synthetic garnets, see the “Synthetics” section of our main garnet gem listing.
An online search for “synthetic hessonites” will return many admonitions against wearing such material, especially in a Navaratna setting. While hessonites aren’t rare or too expensive, and lab-created grossulars aren’t common, gems with strong symbolic associations may motivate dishonest vendors to sell simulants made of even more plentiful, cheaper materials. (See, for example, cross-shaped staurolites). Be wary of dyed glass, plastic, or synthetic quartz imitations of hessonites, especially if purchased online.
Garnets typically receive no gem treatments. However, grossular garnets, including hessonites, are occasionally enhanced. For example, reports have noted hessonites with clarity enhancing fracture fillings, including polymer fillings intended to stabilize highly fractured, low-grade material for cutting.
A 1997 experiment demonstrated that heating purplish rhodolite garnets, an almandine–pyrope blend, may produce a “hessonite-type brownish color” at around 600° C. However, rhodolites have greater hardness (7-7.5) and command higher prices. Thus, you won’t likely encounter heated rhodolites offered as hessonites.
For information on additional possible garnet gem treatments, consult the “Enhancements” section of our garnet buying guide.
Canada, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania are major sources of gem-quality hessonites.
Other notable producers include
- Afghanistan; Australia; Brazil; China (Altay Mountain Range); India; Italy; Madagascar; Myanmar; Pakistan; Russia; United States (San Diego County, California; Washington).
The Sri Lankan gem gravels have produced orange and brown grossulars (hessonite) up to several hundred carats.
Although clean only in small sizes, the fine cinnamon colored hessonites from Quebec have yielded good cut gems up to about 25 carats.
The American Museum of Natural History in New York has a 61.5-ct carved hessonite cameo head of Christ in its collection.
- Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC): 64.2 (orange-brown, Sri Lanka).
- National Museums of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario): 23.94, 13.40, 8.50 (brownish-orange hessonite, Asbestos, Quebec).
Hessonites in jewelry pieces should have protective settings. Store them separately from other harder jewelry stones to avoid contact scratches. Since all grossulars have some heat sensitivity and hessonites in particular typically have inclusions, avoid mechanical cleaning systems and exposing them to extreme heat. Instead, use warm water, detergent, and a soft brush for cleaning. Consult our jewelry cleaning guide for more recommendations.