Purple/Red Variety of Garnet
Tropical orchids, jutting their velvety blooms towards the sky with blazing purples and sultry pinks, wink at pollinators as they cruise by. Their shaded petals, filled with alluring cerise-like hues such as magenta, black currant, and grape, are kin to the crush of color seen in rhodolite garnet. With body colors that create a mulberry assortment, rhodolite brings an air of royalty to the family of red garnet. At their finest, these gems hold undiluted saturation and glisten distinctly when combined with a medium to medium-dark tone. In the past fifty years, Rhodolite has challenged the historical expectation of garnet being a dark/brownish-red and has set the stage for a new age of garnet appreciation.
Rhodolite is a mixture of pyrope and almandite ((Mg, Fe)3AL2(SiO4)3), each a species of the mineral group and gemstone, garnet. The most valuable of the red garnets and singly refractive, rhodolite only displays one color from its crystal and mostly forms without major inclusions. At times being found in metamorphic formations, rhodolite is best known to be found in alluvial deposits as tumbled pebbles. Often seen in larger rough and finished carat weights, the alluvial process helps to weed away inferior crystals. These glowing gems turn faceting into an artform, becoming a beautiful canvas for skilled craftsmen. Yet, large fine quality rhodolites are rare, simply because as the crystal gets larger the material inevitably darkens in tone.
Rhodolite garnet was first discovered, documented, and soon exhausted in the late 1800s in North Carolina. Since then, rhodolites with slight species variations have been unearthed in eastern Africa. Mined from the Tanzanian region of the Umba River Valley, more lightly toned pinkish-purple garnets with spessartite components have slowly been capturing attention since the 1970s. In recent years, strikingly saturated and pure purple garnet from Mozambique has been revealed, sending chills through the spines of collectors. Other, less notable locations for rhodolite are Sri Lanka, India, and Brazil.
Standing between a 7.0 – 7.5 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness; rhodolite and other garnets are some of the most beloved choices for jewelry worldwide. Children born in January call garnet their birthstone, while Aquarians under the Zodiac find it to be a special stone. Named from the Greek root word “rhodon”, meaning rose, rhodolite's vitreous luster sets garnet visually apart. Due to its natural beauty and saturation, garnet is almost never treated. With the spread of exquisite samples in shades of aubergine, sugar beet, and mauve, increased awareness of rhodolite garnet's rarity and beauty is a simple matter of time.