oval brilliant spessartite garnet - Mozambique
oval brilliant spessartite garnet - Mozambique

Spessartite Garnet Value, Price, and Jewelry Information


Usually orange to reddish brown, gem-quality spessartite or spessartine garnets are somewhat rare. However, as blends with other garnet species, they include popular mandarin and malaya garnets as well as color change gems. Spessartites make very durable jewelry stones.

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Usually orange to reddish brown, gem-quality spessartite or spessartine garnets are somewhat rare. However, as blends with other garnet species, they include popular mandarin and malaya garnets as well as color change gems. Spessartites make very durable jewelry stones.

oval brilliant spessartite garnet - Mozambique
Oval brilliant-cut spessartite, 3.64 cts, 10.1 x 8 mm, Mozambique. © The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

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Spessartite Garnet Value

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Before the discovery of mandarin garnets in the 1990s, bright, orangish reds were the most valuable spessartite colors. These came most famously from Ramona, California and Amelia County, Virginia in the United States. These spessartites remain very rare and valuable.

faceted spessartite - Ramona, California
Spessartite, 2.86 cts, Ramona, California. Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

“Aurora red,” a highly saturated reddish orange hue with medium to medium-dark tone, is also a prized color for spessartites.

spessartite and diamond ring
White gold ring with an oval-cut spessartite garnet in a claw setting, between trios of single-cut diamonds. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Cheffins.

However, mandarins, also rare, are very much in demand and can exceed other spessartites in price. Mandarins have purer orange hues.

mandarin spessartite garnet - Nigeria
Oval-cut spessartite (mandarin) garnet, 2.68 cts, 8.5 x 7.3 x 5.0 mm, Nigeria. © ARK Rare Gems. Used with permission.

Most spessartites, especially orange ones, have eye-visible inclusions.

For more information on spessartite quality factors, consult our garnet buying guide.

Faceted spessartites - various sources
Spessartites: Brazil (4.05), Madagascar (15.40) // Amelia, Virginia (4.65), locality unknown (6.41). Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

Comments

Spessartite usually occurs in a solid-state series or blend with other garnet species, such as almandine and pyrope. Gems closer to a pure spessartite content have a light orange color. Those with a reddish to red-brown hue have a higher almandine content as well as a higher refractive index.

cushion-cut spessartite - Brazil
This cushion-cut spessartite has a composition that includes a component of almandine, another garnet species. Therefore, it has a redder color than purer spessartites. 16.84 cts, Brazil. Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

Mandarin garnets have the highest percentage composition of spessartite (85-95% mol) and have vivid orange colors. Malaya garnets can have compositions of variable but high percentages of spessartite (2-94% mol), pyrope (0-83% mol), and almandine (2-78% mol). Their colors range from pink, pinkish orange, yellowish orange, orange, to red.

Large spessartite stones are very rare and usually quite dark.

Spessartite or Spessartine?

Both "spessartite" and "spessartine" are used in gemology to describe the same species of garnet. Originally, "spessartite" was the favored usage in the United Kingdom, while "spessartine" was more popular in the United States. Either term is acceptable when referring to these garnets.

Be aware, however, that the term "spessartite" is used to refer to a type of lamprophyre igneous rock also named after the Spessart Mountains of Germany. Context and appearance should suffice to distinguish them.

"Kashmirine"

A rare and spectacular variety of spessartite discovered in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan has been marketed as "Kashmirine." Its color ranges from slightly yellowish orange to brownish orange or red-orange.

spessartite Kashmirine - Pakistan
This 1.13-ct oval "Kashmirine" displays the incredible richness and saturation of the material, which in melee sizes has the brilliance of sapphire or chrysoberyl. The raw material tends to be heavily fractured, and clean gems over 1 carat are rarely encountered in the trade. Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

Color Change Garnets

Spessartite is part of the composition of many color change garnets. Most such gems are pyrope-spessartite blends.

Unusual color change garnets with large amounts of vanadium (V) and chromium (Cr) have been reported from East African sources. These are primarily spessartite with unusually large components of grossular. Some of the color changes observed include the following:

  • Greenish yellow-brown (transmitted fluorescent light) to purplish red (reflected fluorescent); reddish orange to red (incandescent light). Spessartite/grossular/almandine, N = 1.773, SG = 3.98.
  • Light bluish green (transmitted fluorescent) to purple (reflected); light red to purplish red (incandescent). Spessartite/grossular/pyrope, N = 1.763, SG = 3.89.

Garnets with alexandrite-like color change have also been noted, from violet-red to blue-green. These are usually small, but a 24.87-ct stone was sold in 1979.

Synthetics

Scientists have synthesized spessartites for research purposes. In addition, synthetic garnets such as yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) can be created in almost any color, including orange and reddish orange, and could serve as spessartite simulants.

An online search will easily find "synthetic spessartite/spessartine" jewelry for sale. However, some of these sites will also explicitly equate colored cubic zirconia (CZ) or synthetic corundum with "synthetic spessartite." These are distinct species, not garnets, and would be better described as imitations or lookalikes. (Most likely, these vendors treat the term "synthetic" as synonymous with "imitation"). 

Even rough material may be misrepresented. In at least one instance, lab-created corundum was sold as natural spessartite rough.

Enhancements

No known gem treatments or enhancements.

spessartite garnet and diamond bracelet
14k gold bracelet with approximately 55-ctw oval-cut spessartites and 3.75-ctw diamonds. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Heritage Auctions.

Sources

San Diego County, California, especially at Ramona, has produced fine, orange gems. Other notable sources in the United States are:

  • Colorado; Nevada; New Mexico; North Carolina; Pennsylvania; Amelia Court House, Virginia (fine, gemmy orange to deep brownish material).
spessartite crystal - Amelia, Virginia
Spessartine with a vivid, cinnamon-orange color, 2.1 x 2.0 x 1.5 cm, Amelia Mine, Amelia Court House, Amelia County, Virginia, USA. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

Namibia, Nigeria, and Tanzania are major sources of spessartites, including mandarins.

spessartite cabochons - Nigeria
Spessartite cabochons, pear (10.64 cts) and oval (5.98 cts), Nigeria. © All That Glitters. Used with permission.

Other notable gem-quality sources include the following:

  • Arassuahy, Ceara, and Minas Gerais, Brazil: large crystals (up to several pounds), gemmy, fine color.
Faceted spessartites - Brazil
Spessartites: Brazil (ca 4, 2, 2, 16). Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.
  • Sri Lanka and Myanmar: in gem gravels.
  • Afghanistan; Australia; China; Germany; Italy; Kenya; Madagascar; Mexico; Mozambique; Norway; Pakistan; South Africa.
spessartite crystals - China
Spessartites, crystals up to 1.3 cm across, specimen 9.0 x 7.1 x 3.2 cm, Yunxiao Mine, near Tongbei, Fujian Province, China. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

Stone Sizes

A few Brazilian spessartites have weighed several pounds and retained great transparency and fine color. However, these are very rare.

Faceters have cut gems weighing more than 100 carats from Brazilian and Madagascar rough.

Spessartites from Amelia, Virginia have fine, orange color. These stones have yielded gems up to about 15-20 carats. However, this site has also produced crystals weighing several pounds.

  • Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC): 109 (red, Brazil); 53.8 (red, Brazil); 40.1 (orange, Virginia).
  • American Museum of Natural History (New York): 96 (reddish, not clean, Brazil).

Care

With a hardness of 7-7.5 and no cleavage, spessartites make durable gemstones suitable for any type of jewelry, including engagement ring stones.

heart-cut spessartite and diamond ring
18k rose gold ring with heart-shaped spessartite, 4.78 cts, and 35 brilliant-cut diamonds, 0.92 ctw. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Auctionata Paddle 8 AG.

However, since these gems tend to contain inclusions, avoid mechanical cleaning systems. Instead, use warm water, mild detergent, and a soft brush.

For more recommendations, consult our gemstone jewelry cleaning guide.

insect brooch with spessartite, tsavorites, and diamonds
An early 20th century gold brooch designed as an insect. It has a body made from an old-cut diamond and oval spessartite, tsavorites for eyes, single-cut diamonds for wings, and a split pearl terminal bar. 5.2 cm in length. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Fellows.

Joel E. Arem, Ph.D., FGA

Dr. Joel E. Arem has more than 60 years of experience in the world of gems and minerals. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Mineralogy from Harvard University, he has published numerous books that are still among the most widely used references and guidebooks on crystals, gems and minerals in the world.

Co-founder and President of numerous organizations, Dr. Arem has enjoyed a lifelong career in mineralogy and gemology. He has been a Smithsonian scientist and Curator, a consultant to many well-known companies and institutions, and a prolific author and speaker. Although his main activities have been as a gem cutter and dealer, his focus has always been education. joelarem.com


Donald Clark, CSM IMG

The late Donald Clark, CSM founded the International Gem Society in 1998. Donald started in the gem and jewelry industry in 1976. He received his formal gemology training from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the American Society of Gemcutters (ASG). The letters “CSM” after his name stood for Certified Supreme Master Gemcutter, a designation of Wykoff’s ASG which has often been referred to as the doctorate of gem cutting. The American Society of Gemcutters only had 54 people reach this level. Along with dozens of articles for leading trade magazines, Donald authored the book “Modern Faceting, the Easy Way.”


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