Garnets are a complicated family. The story of malaya or malaia garnet illustrates this well. Discovered in the 1960s in the Umba Valley in Tanzania, these pink gems were called malaia, Swahili for “out of the family.” Miners who were being paid to search for violet rhodolite literally set aside these finds. At that time, they didn't fit into any known garnet varieties. When malaia garnet came to the attention of the gem world in the 1970s, however, the outcast quickly became quite popular and valuable. These gems have since been found in a wider range of colors than the pink that initially garnered so much attention.
Malaia Garnet Value
Malaia garnet value increases as the tone lightens.
The International Gem Society (IGS) has a list of businesses offering gemstone appraisal services.
Malaia Garnet Information
|Is a Variety of||Garnet|
|Alternate Common Names||Malaya Garnet|
|Colors||Various shades of red, red-orange, orange, brownish orange, yellowish orange, peach, and pink.|
|Transparency||Transparent to opaque|
|Absorption Spectrum||Absorption bands are always visible at 4100, 4210, and 4300 that may merge to form a cutoff at 4350. There may also be absorption bands at 4600, 4800, 5040, 5200, and 5370.|
|Formula||A3B2Si3O12. A = Mn, Mg, Fe. B = Al, Fe, V, Cr.|
|Etymology||From the Swahili word malaia, meaning “out of the family” or “outcast.”|
|Inclusions||Rutile, pyrite, or apatite needles.|
Popularity notwithstanding, the rare malaia garnet remains complicated. Currently, the name is used two different ways. It’s a trade name for pyrope-spessartine garnets with light to slightly dark colors ranging from pink, pinkish orange, yellowish orange, orange, to red. It’s also a variety of pyralspite (a blend of pyrope, almandine, and spessartite garnets) with a very wide range of possible mixtures. Malaia garnets may consist of 0-83% pyrope, 2-78% almandine, 2-94% spessartite, and 0-24% grossular, with no more than 4% andradite.
Some malaia garnets may shift colors under incandescent and fluorescent light. When faceted, they may also show scintillating red flashes due to the presence of chromium or vanadium. Malaia garnet’s absorption spectrum and needle inclusions can also help distinguish these gems from other garnet varieties.
These gems are not usually enhanced or synthesized.
The Umba Valley in Tanzania, the first known source of malaia garnet, now rarely produces the material. The gemstone has also been found in Tunduro, Tanzania, as well as Kenya and Madagascar.
Stones larger than four carats are very rare.
Light peach and pinkish orange malaia garnets are sometimes marketed as “Imperial garnets.” Brownish, pinkish orange specimens from Madagascar with a high anomalous refraction have been called “Imperial malaia garnet.” Tan, beige specimens are marketed as “Champagne garnet.”
Malaia garnets, with their high hardness and excellent dispersion, are excellent stones for faceting. Garnets are best cleaned with warm water, detergent, and a soft brush. Consult our Gemstone Care Guide and Gemstone Jewelry Cleaning Guide for more information.