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Spessartine is an orange, red-brown gemstone which belongs to the large garnet category of gemstones. The name spessartine originates from the Bavarian meaning for forest, ‘spessart’. The forest is a mountain range in Germany where the gem was first found in the 1880s. The spessartine gems were not often seen in jewellery until they were mined in Namibia and Mozambique in the 1990s.
Spessartine gems are of the group which include the colour-change and Malaya varieties. Gems with this ability to change colour when viewed using various light sources are extremely rare and as a result are very highly priced. Colour-changing garnets are usually a cross between spessartine and pyrope garnets. The colour of the gem usually determines where the gem is from for example if the spessartine was of an orange-yellow colour it would mean that it was located in Madagascar, as the gem was located here it was once named Mandarin garnet. Similarly if the gem was of a violet-red colour then it suggests that the specific stones were found in Colorado and Maine.
Spessartine garnets have been very popular in expensive, high quality jewellery. They are featured in Cartier’s “L’Odyseè de Cartier Parcours d’un Style” collection. A panther bracelet includes a 63.55 carat spessartine cabochon. The spessartine gems are also used in Mark Schneider’s men’s rings and received the JCK Jeweller’s Choice Award in 2008 for them. A spessartines garnet and gold necklace was sold for around $62,500 in 2013 at the Bonham’s auction in Los Angeles. The amount of spessartine cabochons in the necklace amounted to around 382 carats in total and came from Tanzania. The gem has been used by Master lapidarist, Buzz Gray and Bernadine Johnston to create a series of gemstone butterfly brooches that are currently exhibited in LA’s Natural History Museum. The gemstone is also popular amongst celebrities as it was worn by the actress Emma Stone as a pair of spessartine garnet earrings at the 2011 MTV Movie Awards.
The price of spessartine garnet gems depend on the size and quality of them. The main quality factors considered are the colours and clarity. The more saturated pure orange gems are the rarer and more valuable they are, ranging from around $1000 to $2000 per carat depending on the size of gems. The bright yellow-orange is considered to be the second most valuable colour, ranging between $750 and $1200 per carat. The golden-orange and red-orange coloured gems tend to be less expensive, costing around $200 to $700 per carat for clean and fine cut stones.
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