African Spessartite are brilliant orange gemstones from Namibia and Nigeria. One of the rarest and most valuable Garnets, Spessartite’s excellent brilliance and durability have seen it become a hugely popular jewelry gemstone.
While Spessartite has been around for less than 200 years, colors discovered in Africa in the 90s, combined with Spessartite’s excellent brilliance and durability have seen demand for this popular jewelry gemstone increase.
Displaying a beautiful variety of intense orangey hues, ranging from deep-orange to bright mandarin and rich golden-orange, African Spessartite is valued for its colorful brilliance, a characteristic of its high refraction. Spessartite actually has the fifth highest refractive index, after Diamond, Sphene, Zircon and Demantoid (a variety of Garnet).
Good cutting accentuates the innate brilliance of African Spessartite and it is finished eye-clean, the highest quality clarity grade for colored gemstones, with an attractive shape and overall appearance.
Used in adornment for over 5,000 years, Garnets were popular in ancient Egypt from around 3100 BC, being used as beads in necklaces as well as inlaid jewelry (gems set into a surface in a decorative pattern). Garnet’s many myths frequently portray it as a symbol of light, faith, truth, chivalry, loyalty and honesty.
In Judaism, a Garnet is said to have illuminated Noah’s Ark and Garnet (carbuncle) was also one of the gems in the ‘breastplate of judgment’ (Exodus 28:15-30), the impetus for birthstones in Western culture. Crusaders considered Garnet so symbolic of Christ’s sacrifice that they set them into their armor for protection. In Islam, Garnets illuminate the fourth heaven, while for Norsemen, they guide the way to Valhalla. A Grimm’s fairy-tale even tells of an old lady, who upon rescuing an injured bird was rewarded for her kindness with a Garnet that glowed, illuminating the night.
Discovered in the mid-19th century, Spessartite (also Spessartine) is named for the locale of its discovery, Spessart in the German state of Bavaria. A variety of Garnet, Spessartite will always be a shade of orange due to manganese in its crystal structure, but a higher iron content results in deeper reds and reddish-browns. January’s birthstone, Garnet’s name is derived from the Latin ‘granatus’ (from ‘granum’, which means ‘seed’) due to some Garnets’ resemblance to pomegranate seeds. Coming in blues, chocolates, greens, oranges, pinks, purples, reds and yellows, Garnets are a group of minerals possessing similar crystal structures, but varying in composition, giving each type different colors and properties.
While Spessartite is found in Australia, Brazil, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Zambia, Namibia and Nigeria are the premiere sources.
In 1991, Mandarin Garnet was first discovered in Kunene in northwest Namibia, but is today applied to Spessartite of any origin displaying this hue. Namibian Spessartite is from the Outomongu Mine located in a valley near the Kunene River.
Since 1994, Nigeria has become one of Spessartite’s most important sources and is mined at Iganna, approximately 110 kilometers northeast of Ibadan in Nigeria’s Oyo State.
Plagued by sporadic production and a lack of gem-quality crystals, Spessartite remains expensive, rare and difficult to obtain, especially when calibrated for jewelry. African Spessartite is also one of the few gemstones that are not enhanced.
Durability & Care
African Spessartite (Mohs’ Hardness: 7 – 7.5) is an excellent choice for everyday jewelry. African Spessartite should always be stored carefully to avoid scuffs and scratches. Clean with gentle soap and lukewarm water, scrubbing behind the gem with a very soft toothbrush as necessary. After cleaning, pat dry with a soft towel or chamois cloth.