Spessartite garnet you find by Rolf Dillmann

Vibrant orange and pinkish orange spessartite garnet from Nigeria has become a hot new gemstone in jewellery collections being promoted by designers and retailers in various jewellery markets. From Japan to Europe to the United States, spessartite garnet is setting a new jewellery fashion trend and demand is from both designers making one-of-a-kind pieces and manufacturers of mass production. Deposits of this brightly coloured garnet with a high brilliance were first discovered in Nigeria in early 1999. Strong demand from jewellery manufacturers and designers has pushed sales up tremendously for gemstone suppliers stocking spessartite garnet, wholesalers said. Demand is for both large free sizes in special cuts as well as sma1ler calibrated sizes. Best selling are bright pinkish orange stones and large exceptional stones can sell for up to US$I,500 a carat. However, the best selling range is 3 carats to 5 carats at US$100 to US$300 a carat.
In Japan, the orange garnet is being sold under the French name spessartine and laboratories are issuing reports using that name. Wholesalers said spessartite garnet sales have been propelled by promotions of the colours, orange and purple, by fashion designers of clothes and accessories for summer and autumn collections for the year 2000. To complement these fashion trends, jewellery designers and manufacturers are producing new collections with spessartite garnet. One large gemstone wholesaler in Japan that is stocking and selling a good quantity of spessartite garnet is Ito Co Ltd in Tokyo. Owner, Akira Ito, said sales of spessartite garnet have increased 50 percent in the first half of 2000 compared with the total sales in 1999.

“There is a definite trend towards spessartite garnet and all sizes sell, from stones below 1 carat up to 10 carats”.
He said previously spessartite garnet was little known and hardly used in Japan. “But availability from Nigeria, coupled with the fashion trend for orange and the need for jewellers to show something different to make a sale in the slow market have helped increased sales”. Mr Ito said in Japan, best selling Nigerian stones are 3 carats to 5 carats from US$100 to US$200 a carat. “Smaller stones sell well too, and sizes from 1 carat to 3 carats are from US$60 to US$120 a carat. Stones below 1 carat are from US$30 to US$60 a carat. “Demand from exclusive designers is for stones up to 10 carats and best selling is from USS200 to USS300 a carat,” he said. Mr Ito said since he has been stocking and promoting spessartite garnet for the past seven years, particularly the Namibia variety which was sold under the trade name, mandarin garnet, other dealers and manufacturers are aware of his stock, and sales have been good. He said to help retailers promote the garnet to consumers, he offers information packs about the stones – where they are from, what makes them special and offers the option of laboratory certificates when required.

Demand is strong in Europe for most sizes, but best selling is from 1.5 carats to 4 carats, wholesalers said. Ekkehard Schneider of Ekkehard F. Schneider in Kirschweiler in Germany said since demand is growing, his company now concentrates more of ist efforts on marketing spessartite garnet. Among the most preferred shapes are cushion cuts and trilliants, Mr Schneider said. “In addition to free sizes, we have started to sell smaller sizes, particularly 3mm rounds in calibrated sizes or in similar sizes that will fit into jewellery mountings.” Although supply from Nigeria is dwindling, we are fortunate we have a good stock. We try to buy as much as possible and have been stocking over the past several months. Mr Schneider said demand is worldwide: Germany, Switzerland and Austria in Europe as well as in the United States and Japan. Israel Eliezri of Colgem EL97 Ltd in Israel said about 20 percent of the production from Nigeria show a bright orange colour because of the absence of iron. Colgem was one of the first companies to promote spessartite garnet from Namibia under the name mandarin garnet. He said best selling for Colgem is 4 carats to 5 carats at US$250 a carat. However bright orange 5-carat stones can sell for as much as US$700 a carat and exceptional colour and larger sizes can sell for up to US$1,000 a carat.

In the United States, demand is strong from both designers and manufacturers and spessartite is being used as a single large stone to highlight a bold designer piece or as multiple smaller stones in necklaces or bracelets. A market research company in the United States, Gem World International, which tracks gemstone sales and trends in the United States says one of the best selling gemstones in 2000 is spessartite garnet. Stuart Robertson of Gem World said best selling is polished from 1 carat to 3 carats from US$100 to US$150 a carat. One company in the United States that is stocking spessartite is Pala International in California. Bill Larson of Pala International said: “Because the color of spessartite is so unusual and its brilliance so strong, it makes it a truly unique stone and is helping increase its popularity.“ He said stones from 2 carats to 20 carats sell well but demand is particularly strong for stones from 8 carat to 10 carats with an average price of about US$300 a carat. He said unlike the spessartite or mandarin garnet from Namibia which was a small amount and sold at higher prices, Nigerian spessartite is more widely available and prices have become attractive. "We bought large parcels starting in the summer of 1999 at prices ranging from US$60,000 to US$100,000 a kilogram. We have produced polished from this rough in a range of sizes and in matching suites for necklaces and bracelets. "Since we promoted demantoid garnet from Russia earlier, many jewellers know we carry rare and highquality garnets and approach us for spessartite garnet. We also had a large stock at the JCK Las Vegas International Jewelry Show and promoted strongly there too" Mr Larson said.

Rough supply of spessartite from Nigeria is dwindling and wholesalers said supply may soon not be adequate to meet demand. Some said only lower-grade material suitable for small polished or for cabochons is available. They said suppliers in Nigeria are now offering the lower qualities compared with the better qualities offered before.
Ekkehard Schneider of Ekkehard F. Schneider in Kirschweiler in Germany said supply is scarce. "Prices for rough are increasing while sizes available are becoming smaller, with more inclusions and in darker colours. On the other hand, demand is growing for larger sizes and cleaner stones in lighter and intense colours." Suppliers in Nigeria report that miners have moved from the spessartite garnet mining area to a new deposit of aquamarine that has recently been discovered in Nigeria. One wholesaler described the situation: “This is Africa. A new deposit is discovered; miners rush to the area; a flood of the gemstone hit the market then the deposit dwindles; a new find of another stone is made and the miners rush off to seek their fortune in another stone,  another area. For wholesalers who see the potential of a new find and take the risk to stock enough as it comes out of the mines, there is a chance to promote the stone and make it a fashion trend. 'This is true for spessartite garnet from Nigeria. A few dealers saw the potential of this brilliant stone in strong, vivid colours, went in, bought whatever rough they could and now they are offering to the jewellery world a rare stone in some of the most unusual colours," the wholesaler said. Bill Larson of Pala International in California said: "Rarely has there been a stone like the spessartite garnet from Nigeria. These colours may be found in the sapphire family and then sell for high prices, but for garnets these are truly exceptional."

Spessartite is manganese aluminium silicate and was first discovered in the Spessart district of Bavaria but the occurrence had no gem significance. It is also known in the trade as spessartine, which is the French version. Small amounts of gem quality spessartite have been found in the gravels of Sri Lanka and Myanmar, in Madagascar, New South Wales in Australia, Norway and in several locations in the United States, including Virginia, Califomia and Colorado. A reason why spessartite from Nigeria is different from other sources is that it has a very low percentage of iron, which accounts for the bright orange colours. In the deposit from Namibia, there was no trace of iron in most stones which gave the stones an intense orange colour, Israel Eliezri of Colgem EL 97 Ltd said. Spessartite from other regions has a higher content of iron which gives it a reddish brown appearance, Mr Eliezri said. 

By Jennifer Henricus


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