Like fiery comets in the evening sky there appeared some ten years ago the first Mandarin Garnets in the gemstone trade. Experts and enthusiasts both agreed: the wonderful colours and excellent brilliance of the orange-red treasures are unique indeed. What kind of gemstones are they and where do they come from?
Just close your eyes and dream a little bit: Africa … orange-red is the evening sky in the Northwest of Namibia, over quiet mountains and a lonely river. The next settlement is about nine hours away by car. The temperatures are extreme here: in summer, 40 to 50 degrees centigrade are the rule, while in winter temperatures drop to almost freezing point. Here, far away from any kind of civilisation the Kunene River has for centuries followed its route to along the border between Namibia and Angola through the mountains. This remote and isolated place, one of the last placed untouched by the modern world, is the place where in 1991 the first Mandarin Garnets were found. Embedded in mica and mica slate, at the very same location where they came into existence millions of years ago, there were discovered small crystals of exceptional colour and transparency which gained the experts' attention. Gemmological tests proved that the first theories and speculations had been right: the orange-coloured stones were in fact variations of the rare Spessartine stones, members of the large and colourful Garnet-family. So far Spessartine had been found only in Sri Lanka, Upper Birma, Madagascar, Brazil and Australia as well as in Kenya and Tanzania, but they were rare stones for enthusiasts and collectors and had hardly been used for jewellery. The reason for this moderate situation was simple: they were offered only rarely in really good colour and quality in the gemstone mines. However, the spectacular crystals from Namibia were of an exceptionally fine, intensively bright orange. Some even sparkled in a deep red-orange of the last rays of the light, when the sun has already set beyond the horizon. They were more beautiful and brilliant than anything available before. Almost no inclusions disturb the brilliant appearance of the "imperial garnets”.
Very quickly the rough stones came on the market visa only few gemstone cutters. Mostly the stones were faceted, as the facets best bring out their unique colour and brilliance. Unfortunately the mine on the Kunene River was soon exploited. In the beginning the stones were found there direct at the surface of the mines, but the excavations had to be taken deeper and deeper as time passed on. The results got less and less, while the costs kept increasing. So finally the mine gave up production. Further prospecting in the remote bush region of Namibia would have been far too expensive and too complicated. Traders and gemstone lovers both regretted very much that this gemstone which had managed so quickly to attract an enthusiastic group of fans was only available sparsely from stocks of only few cutters.
A real shooting star
The beautiful gemstone had in a short period of time managed to develop into a real shooting star in the international jewellery sector. There had been some minor disagreements about its name first among gemmologists and gemstone traders. Some called the brilliant orange to orange-red beauties first "Kunene Spessartine” according to their occurrence, other talked about "Hollandine”. But quite soon the evocative denomination "Mandarin Garnet” spread throughout the international market. And thus the stone made its successful appearance all around the world. And this very fitting name has remained in use till today – though, fortunately, the occurrence at the Kunene River has not remained the only one. About in April 1994 there appeared again orange-coloured stones on the market, this time from Nigeria. They resembled remarkably to those Mandarin Garnets from Namibia, although experienced experts would be able to note fine differences. Their occurrence is situated in the utmost Southwest of Nigeria, not far away from the neighbouring state of Benim. The mine is located in a former riverbed in the bush land. During the rain season pumps have to be employed in order to draw the water out of the mines. Garnet specialist Thomas Lind from Idar-Oberstein was enthusiastic about the attractively of the new stones: "From Nigeria some beautiful, bright orange Mandarin Garnets have been brought onto the market. Among them there are repeatedly stones which achieve sizes over one carat. We are delighted that they supplement the meanwhile stable offer on the market of this formerly so are stone.” Now Mandarin Garnet is available once again in reliable amounts, even though top quality stones remain rare.
Orange symbolises joy of life and individuality
What makes Mandarin Garnet so special? First of all there is, of course, its colour, this bright orange, sometimes with brown undertones, in all the range from the colour of ripe peaches to deepest red orange. These are colours which announce energy and joy of life, individuality and spirit of adventure. A person wearing orange has no inhibitions about being noticed, this colour signals self-confidence. It is unmistakably the colour for extroverted people. But there is more to orange than just that. For example, the colour orange plays a very important role in Asian arts, more important than in European art. Asian gods are often dressed in orange robes, and even the sky may be painted orange. Yellow and red, the two colours constituting orange, are not considered opposites in Asia but rather complement each other. Orange is also the colour for the robes of Buddhist monks, cut from a single piece of cloth. Here orange symbolises the change all life is subjected to. Any existence is understood as permanent process of reciprocity between the active male Yang principle and the passive female Yin. Again, both principles are no opposites, but they keep on changing and continually influence each other. Life means change – and orange symbolises this permanent change better than any other colour.
Besides its wonderful colour, however, Mandarin Garnet has additional advantages which make it a truly unique gemstone. On the one hand there is its good hardness. It is an uncomplicated gemstone and makes ideal companion for any situation or event. On the other hand it has a remarkably high refraction of light lending it an exceptional brilliance. Even in unfavourable light conditions small, brilliant cut and inclusion-free Mandarin garnets will sparkle vividly. And in addition there is its rarity. Nobody can predict how long it will – as currently – remain available in reliable quantities. Colour, brilliance, hardness and rarity make this beautiful and easy-to-care-for gemstone something special indeed. Thus on seeing it, individualists with strong sense of style will exclaim: this is my stone!