Gem Education


Namibia, Sri Lanka and Nigeria
Yellowish Orange to Vivid Orange-Red
Refractive Index:
None, garnets are singularly refractive
Specific Gravity:
7.0 to 7.5 on Mohs Scale
Birthstone Month:
Anniversary Year:


Garnet traces its roots to the Nile Delta in 3100 B.C., where Egyptian artisans would craft the gemstone into beads or inlay them into hand-wrought jewelry. Noah used garnet as a lamp on his bow as he cast about on the ocean. Garnet received its name from the ancient Greeks because the color reminded them of the "granatum," or pomegranate seed. The versatile garnet comes in a virtual rainbow of colors, where spessartite (or spessartine) is an orange to orange-red form of the gemstone garnet.

Spessartite garnet discovered in the mid 1800's in Spessart, Bavaria. For decades, the best known spessartite source was the Little Three Mine and Hercules Mine, located in San Diego, California. Once a rare collector's gem, the brilliant orange garnet started to grow in popularity in 1990's, after the discovery of deposits in Namibia and later, Nigeria. Today, the Spessartite is one of the most popular of all garnets. It is highly desired by collectors, jewelry designers and gem lovers.

Spessartite garnet is ideochromatic, meaning that it is colored by a fundamental element in its composition. That element is manganese, which produces an orange color. If you took away the manganese, it would no longer be considered spessartite. Thus spessartite has only one basic color, orange. Although the color may be slightly modified if mixed with iron, in the form of almandine. This produces a deeper, more reddish coloration. Spessartite garnet can be found in all the ranges of orange from the color of ripe peaches to a deep orange-red. The most valuable spessarties are a bright, slightly reddish orange.