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Pala International has consistently earned its reputation as the direct source for the finest colored stones.

February 2003

Gem Spectrum Title

The Gem Spectrum is Pala International’s free newsletter. Edited by Pala’s own Gabrièl Mattice, it is filled with interesting articles on various aspects of gems and minerals.
gem collecting, rubellite, G.F. Kunz, Pala International, demantoid garnet, gemsWe distribute The Gem Spectrum free within the United States to members of the gem and jewelry trades. If you would like to be added to our mailing list, please contact us.

Volume 7

The Reds have the Greens

Rough and cut demantoid garnets
Ural Pearls. A bevy of beauties from the Ural Mountains in Russia. Demantoid such as this has not been seen since the time of the Czars. The cut stones are over 4 cts. each. Photo: Jeff Scovil/Pala International 

When the first Russian stuck his hand into the icy waters of the Ural Mountains’ Bobrovka River and pulled out a handful of shiny green pebbles, little did he know that he would be triggering an entirely new movement in jewelry. Originally thought to be peridot, the gem proved to be green andradite garnet, and was dubbed “demantoid” after its diamond-like properties.
    Before long, the workshops of Carl Fabergé were crafting stunning pavé pieces for the Czars. Even New York’s Tiffany had its chief gemologist, George F. Kunz, off in Russia buying all the fiery green gems he could get hold of.
    Then, just as quickly as it appeared, it vanished. Overnight, the Bolshevik revolution turned Russia upside down, and that included the country’s gem trade. The Reds had no need for bourgeois luxuries such as gems. Thus the brilliant green pebbles lay dormant in the swamps and marshes, waiting patiently for a new suitor.
    It took the late-1980’s fall of the Soviet Union to shake more demantoid loose from the Ural soil. With communism gone, the former Reds found green to be very much to their liking. Once again, demantoid emerged onto the world gem market. Like reconnecting with a long-lost lover, buyers were smitten again, and quickly rekindled the passion for these Ural pearls.
    In the 1990’s, Pala International’s William Larson worked closely with the Russians at several mining areas, but even with modern mining methods, demantoids remained elusive. This lady was definitely playing hard-to-get.
    That changed in the summer of 2002. When prospectors digging at the old Kladovka mine uncovered a brand-spanking new vein, Larson received a frantic call from his Russian partner, Nicolai Kouznetsov. Nicolai pleaded with Larson to get on the next plane over to Russia: “Come now! I’ve got something here even better than caviar…”
    To a caviar lover like Larson, that was pure catnip. Just forty-eight hours later, he walked into an Ekaterinburg sorting room and was stunned by what he saw – a gemologist sat behind a giant green mountain. Over 20 kg of demantoid – more than the world had seen since the time of the Czars – was spread out for viewing. Larson could say only one thing: “Great googly moogly! The Reds have the greens.”

gem, gems, jewelry, ruby, sapphire, garnet, rubellite, nigerian rubellite

A Visit to Russia’s Demantoid Mines
by William Larson

It’s late August, 2002, and I’m exhausted, flying Aeroflot from Los Angeles to Moscow and then a domestic jet to Ekaterinburg, jumping-off point for the Ural Mountain gem mines. Yes I’m tired, but – damn the torpedoes – somebody has to do it. Why, you ask? Because the Reds have just dug up what promises to be one of biggest finds of green in a century. Green as in demantoid garnet, imperial gem of Fabergé and the Czars.
    After arrival, Vadim, the mine manager, meets us and we drive out to the mines. In the Urals, the mining season is short – just three to four months – and only in the last two weeks has the insect population come down to bearable. It was at the Kladovka site that demantoid was first found last century. Indeed, researching that historic discovery is what led Vadim and his team here.
Exploration started in May, but by July, they were on the verge of giving up. Then, Mother Russia threw her sons a little treasure. Workers exposed a vein and before long, green Ural pearls were being unearthed in unheard-of quantities.
    In one vein, the green garnets have formed in crystals and aggregates. The best pieces are isolated in lines of nodules, glistening like green, polished tears. These are up to a quarter inch in diameter.
    Above the pit, pea-sized pieces of demantoid are scattered across a piece of canvas in a spectacular display of newly dug treasure. We marvel at the scene, turning beautiful, crystal-clean demantoids in our fingers. The likes of this have hardly been seen since the time of the Czars.
    A few of the rocks are broken up, revealing nodules of an extraordinary green color. As the last sunlight fades, we retire to camp, where a barbecue has already begun. We take several fine demantoid samples back, and display them like hunting trophies on the dinner table.
    That evening, over a toast, our Russian friends invite us to return again. As Nicolai raises his glass, he winks at me and says: “I love this business. We travel far and wide in search of these charms of nature. And in doing so, we are exposed to the charms of people from opposite sides of the globe.     Here’s to our business…” We raise our glasses once more…
    Yes, I will definitely be back for more. All in all, it is one of my most memorable days in prospecting. Demantoid Garnet Buying Guide
By Richard W. Hughes

Introduction/Name. Demantoid is the name given to the rich green variety of andradite garnet. The gem was first discovered in Russia and the name is derived from its diamond-like adamantine luster.

Color. While the color of demantoid never equals that of the finest emerald, an emerald-green is the ideal. The color should be as intense as possible, without being overly dark or yellowish green. The color of demantoid is believed to be due to chromium. It should be noted that demantoid’s fire is best seen in the lighter, less saturate gems. Thus the color preference is a matter of individual taste. Some people will choose an intense body color and less fire, while others prefer a lighter body color and more fire.

Lighting. Demantoid garnet generally looks best under daylight. Incandescent light makes it appear slightly more yellowish green. Because of its high dispersion, demantoid looks great in the same type of lighting as diamond, i.e., multi-point (as opposed to diffuse) lighting.

Clarity. In terms of clarity, demantoid is relatively clean. Thus when buying one should expect eye-clean or near-eye-clean stones. Demantoids often contain radiating needle inclusions that are termed “horsetails.”

Horsetail inclusion in demantoid garnet
A classic example of a horsetail inclusion in a Russian demantoid garnet. Photo: Wimon Manorotkul

Cut. In the market, demantoids are found mainly as round brilliant or cushion cuts. Cabochon-cut demantoids are not often seen.

Prices. Demantoid is among the most expensive of all garnets, with prices similar to those fetched by fine tsavorite (the other green garnet). But like all gem materials, low-quality (i.e., non-gem quality) pieces may be available for a few dollars per carat. Such stones are generally not clean enough to facet. Prices for demantoid vary greatly according to size and quality. At the top retail end, they may reach as much as US$10,000 per carat.

Stone Sizes. Demantoid is rare in faceted stones above 2 cts. Fine demantoids above 5 carats can be considered world-class pieces. Most stones tend to be less than 1 ct.

Sources. The original locality for demantoid was in Russia’s Ural Mountains. Today, deposits of lesser material exist in Iran, Italy and Namibia, but the Russian material remains the standard by which the gem is judged.

demantoid garnet in matrix
Another Ural pearl in matrix. Photo: William Larson

Enhancements. Some demantoid garnet is heat-treated to improve the color. The resulting stones are stable under normal wearing conditions.

Imitations. Demantoid garnet has never been synthesized, but a number of imitations exist. These include green glass and green YAG.

faceted demantoid garnets
This suite of 0.75–2.0 ct. demantoid garnets shows the typical range of colors possible. The ideal body color would be the center stone, which is not too light or dark, but the lighter tones show off demantoid's fire to better effect. Photo: Wimon Manorotkul; Gems: Pala International

Properties of Demantoid Garnet

  Demantoid Garnet (a variety of andradite garnet)
Composition Ca3Fe2(SiO4)3
Hardness (Mohs) 6.5 to 7
Specific Gravity 3.84
Refractive Index 1.888; Singly refractive
Crystal System Cubic

Light to deep green

Pleochroism None
Dispersion 0.057; this is among the highest of all gems, even higher than diamond
Phenomena None
Handling Ultrasonic: generally safe, but risky if the gem contains liquid inclusions
Steamer: not safe
The best way to care for demantoid garnet is to clean it with warm, soapy water. Avoid exposing it to heat or acids.
Enhancements Some demantoid is heat treated to improve the color
Synthetic available? No

Further reading
For more on Russia’s demantoid mines, see Gabrièl Mattice’s Gem Spectrum Newsletter, Vol. 4, No. 1


Big Mama Burma Ruby Big Mama’s in the House
One of the most extraordinary ruby specimens ever to emerge from Burma’s fabled Mogok Stone Tract was recently acquired by Pala International. Pictured at left, this crystal weighs an incredible 10,100 carats. We have affectionately name it “Big Mama.”
    In the world of rubies, Mogok has no peer, with the finest pigeon’s blood reds so rare that, above two carats, they easily surpass diamond in price. Crystals of this quality are equally rare. Big Mama is available for viewing by appointment.

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