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Rhodolite Garnet

Is it possible for a gem species identified with class rings to have class?

For years, serious respect has eluded red garnets due to their association with school colors and signet jewelry.

Now newer strains of red garnet, found mostly in East Africa and Sri Lanka, are bringing long-overdue stature to the stone. These strains are called rhodolite garnet and feature, at their best, a lovely vibrant violet-red to pink.

For the last 20 years or so, ever since rhodolite was found in abundance in East Africa, nearly 50 percent of all these garnets that have made their way to market in one to five carat sizes exhibit strong purples and pinks. Of this number, a good many possess prized purple-pink “day-glow” shades that rival similar hues found in tourmaline and fancy sapphire.

“Contrary to popular opinion, rhodolite is not necessarily a deep-toned, overly saturated red or purplish red,” says a West Coast importer. “In sizes under five carats especially, many stones show lighter tones and less saturated colors.”

It is these lighter pink and purple rhodolites that are stealing some thunder away from rubellite tourmaline. And no wonder. Prices for fine rhodolite in sizes up to five carats are very often one quarter those for kindred-color rubellite. Eventually, that could give this tourmaline some difficulty once the word is out about rhodolite, especially since rubellite tends to be far more included than garnet.

What’s more, rhodolite inclusions are generally too fine to be readily seen by the naked eye. Instead, stones take on a velvety appearance.

“Sometimes you’ll find slight bubbles and silk, usually in the fabulous purples,” says a California miner and jeweler. “Reds tend to be flawless and water-clear.” For the most part, however, rhodolite presents jewelers with a very affordable gem whose color, clarity and brilliance are second to none. “It’s just a matter of breaking down popular misconceptions about the stone,” a dealer adds.

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Rhodolite Garnet