Mahenge Umbalite are beautiful imperial, purplish-pink and purple gemstones from Mahenge in Tanzania’s Morogoro Region that were discovered in 2015. While Umbalite was first unearthed in 1978, mining of this rare gemstone has been very irregular since its discovery.
Mahenge Umbalite is a stunningly beautiful, extremely rare gemstone available in three distinctly beautiful hues; imperial (orange-pink similar to Imperial Topaz), purplish-pink and purple. The beauty of this new Mahenge discovery are its three distinctive colors and the most desirable examples are those that are evenly-balanced, noting that Umbalite’s striking hues are most noticeable in smaller sizes.
Mahenge Umbalite has excellent fire and dispersion, and are mostly faceted as Ovals and Rounds, but any cut that maximizes brilliance is indicative of fine quality. Good cutting accentuates the innate beauty of Mahenge Umbalite and every gem 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.
A rare, natural cocktail of Almandine and Pyrope with traces of Spessartite, Umbalite is named after the Tanzanian valley in which it was first discovered, the Umba River Valley. A variety of Garnet, 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. 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.
Discovered in late 2015, Mahenge Umbalite is from deposits near Mahenge in the Ulanga District of Tanzania’s Morogoro Region. A limestone plateau area noted for producing fine Spinel, the gemstone deposits near the town of Mahenge were first discovered in 1989. While Umbalite was first unearthed in 1978, mining of this rare gemstone has been very irregular since its discovery. Due to Umbalite’s rarity, they are highly prized by gem collectors.
The primary difference between Umbalite and the related Rhodolite is its unique colors and scarcity as a result of Spessartite traces, possessing a rarity similar to the coveted Spessartite and Tsavorite. Mahenge Umbalite is also totally natural, which further increases its rarity.
Despite its beauty, production is currently very limited, especially in calibrated sizes for jewelry collections. Due to their rarity, you hardly ever see Umbalite calibrated for jewelry.
Durability & Care
Mahenge Umbalite (Mohs’ Hardness: 7 – 7.5) is an excellent choice for everyday jewelry. Mahenge Umbalite 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.