Madagascan Color Change Garnet are uniquely beautiful gemstones recently unearthed from one of this gems’ most esteemed locales, Bekily in Madagascar’s famed Tuléar Province. Madagascan Color Change Garnet embodies a gem’s quintessential ideals: historical pedigree, a palette of breathtaking hues, and everyday durability, making it one of the world’s most coveted gemstones, and a prized addition to any jewelry collection.
Color Change Garnets from this locality originally exhibited two different color changes traditionally associated with this variety: bluish-green in sunlight (candescent light) to reddish-purple in candlelight (artificial incandescent light); or grey-green and yellowish-green in daylight to reddish in artificial light.
What makes this new discovery so special, is a well-developed and undeniably beautiful color change, affording the potential for several different hues, depending on the light source. Madagascan Color Change Garnet displays ocean forests or verdant olives in daylight, and crimson cranberries under incandescent lighting. Other colors, such as cognac pinks and mocha cranberries, may also be observable under different illumination, for example, traditional indoor (fluorescent) lighting.
Good cutting accentuates the innate beauty of Madagascan Color Change Garnet and every gem is finished eye-clean, the highest quality clarity grade for colored gemstones, as determined by the world’s leading gemological laboratories, with an attractive shape and overall appearance. Madagascan Color Change Garnet has excellent brilliance and are mostly faceted as cushions, ovals, pears, and rounds.
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.
Madagascan Color Change Garnet is an extremely unusual and rare variety of Umbalite Garnet. A rare, natural cocktail primarily of Pyrope with traces of Spessartite, Umbalite was first unearthed in 1978 and named for the locale of its discovery. Umbalite is also referred to as Malaia (Malaya), which means ‘outcast’ or ‘out of the family’ in Swahili (a language of Tanzania and Kenya), as they do not match the color and gemological properties of other better-known Garnets. Madagascan Color Change Garnet is a natural Vanadium-Rich Pyrope-Spessartine Garnet mix with 43 – 51 percent Pyrope and 36 – 44 percent Spessartine. It has a relatively high content of vanadium (0.89 – 1.25 percent V2O3) and a smaller content of chromium (0.14 – 0.36 percent Cr2O3). Primarily vanadium (compared to chromium that causes color change in Alexandrite), and manganese, are the main cause of color change in Umbalite. 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.
Color Change Garnets’ (“Grenat Miova Loko” in Malagasy) notable deposits are the Umba River Valley in Tanzania’s Tanga Region close to the Kenyan border (1987), Ambahatany about 20km from the Ambahita Commune north of Bekily in Southern Madagascar’s Tuléar Province (1998), and near the village of Kamtonga in Kenya’s Taita Taveta District (January 2009).
Aptly coined the ‘Color Changing Garnet Mining Area’, several pits and small quarries were dug along a 6km Garnet-bearing vein. While the area was mined extensively, and believed depleted in 1999, a new pocket was discovered in October 2017. More crystals are currently available mine direct, but with such rare gems, it’s hard to estimate the mine run, especially given its just becoming available in jewelry, which will likely see demand and prices increase. Madagascan Color Change Garnet is also totally natural, which further increases its rarity.
Durability & Care
Madagascan Color Change Garnet (Mohs’ Hardness: 7 – 7.5) is an excellent choice for everyday jewelry. Madagascan Color Change Garnet 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.