Spessartite draws it derivation from the type locality for the mineral, Spessart, in Bavaria, Germany. Simply put, this is an orange variety of garnet, but the terminology, deposits, and actual colors are far more complex.
Spessartite is more of a mineralogical term for a specific chemical formula (Mn 2+3 Al 2 (SiO 4 ) 3 ) within the garnet group. The term spessartine is more often used in Europe but is synonymous with spessartite. Mandarin is a term inspired by the Namibian deposit producing more pure-orange hues.
When the Namibian deposit came online around 1991, the color palette for fine spessartite changed. The material coming out of Marienfluss, Kunene Region was an electric mandarin-orange hue, with some minor pink or red secondary that made it seem very pure and intense. The only drawback to this material was that it often had fine needles creating a silky appearance.
The Nigerian deposit was by far the the biggest as far as carats produced. This deposit in Iseyin, Oyo State, Nigeria produced material from dark reddish-orange, to cinnamon orange, to yellowish orange, to mandarin hues. This material is very clean compared to many other spessartite deposits and still holds strong orange colors. Pala International last bought into a large parcel in 2004 and we are still selling off some of this impressive material. And Pala purchases spessartites whenever we can find fine gems.
The most recent spessartite deposit discovery was the massive find in Loliondo, Tanzania, around 2009. At first it seem only to produce fine crystal specimens, but some cleaner faceted gems worked their way into the market. Colors range from reddish orange, to yellowish orange, to mandarin hues.
Although these are the most prolific spessartite deposits lately, there are several smaller but important localities in San Diego County, USA; Burma; China; Madagascar; Pakistan; and Afghanistan.
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