Imperial Malaia Garnet - GIA Letter #2

International Importers of Quality Gemstones
Specializing in Fine Faceted Colored Gemstones
272 Broadway #732
Methuen, MA 01844

March 5, 1999

GIA Gem ID Lab
5355 Armada Drive
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Attn: Shane McClure

Dear Shane:

I just wanted to mention a few things that you might find of interest. I enjoyed the article on the Imperial Malaia Garnet from Madagascar that was written, and my stone that was used for the article photographed nicely. Actually, I believe that I was the one who first termed the phrase Imperial Malaia for this material since others were calling it Imperial and others simply Malaia. There is a another deposit within the same country which is producing what Margit Thorndal is calling Champagne garnet, but this is definitely a different type than the stone you photographed. What makes the Imperial Malaia garnet unique is three of it's properties which other garnets from the same area and from East Africa just don't possess - that is, a pale to medium color of peachy orange under fluorescent light and reddish highlights and a deeper orange body under incandescent lights; an RI of 1.76 and most importantly, high anomalous refraction, which makes it look very dichroic.

I have recently purchased garnets purported to be "Imperial Garnet" but this material is not the material that I am familiar with and that is pictured and described in the article. It may have come from the same locality and look somewhat similar in color to the original Imperial Malaia. These recently purchased 8 stones of Imperial garnet, though nice and a very pleasing rosy to light orange color, have an index of refraction of 1.74 and not 1.76, and the anomalous refraction does not exist. I must admit that there were two stones of 1.76 RI, but these were essentially indistinguishable from those of RI 1.74. This, therefore, is not the same material, and as I was quoted in the article, this material is quite uncommon and rare when over 1 ct and eye clean. I only know of one dealer who truly has obtained this material in the past.

I have just purchased 3 small pieces of rough which is now currently in cutting. There are a few larger stones available from the original source, but this is basically all that has been coming from this deposit. The company who sold me the 8 faceted stones recently was the same company that purchased the original rough parcel and they coined the term Imperial Garnet, but the material from the first parcel is definitely different from other parcels seen. I do not believe they recognize the difference. The company importing the material is different from the company that is selling these Imperial Garnet stones. The first parcel contained a few kilos of rough but subsequent parcels consisted of a few faceted stones rarely over a carat or so. Another major difference between my recently purchased stones and the original material, is the lack of any of the black plate-like inclusions which is a tell tale sign. Usually, these inclusions are available when viewed via a loop and this newly purchased faceted stones are clean.

To recap the story of Imperial Malaia I first saw it from one business dealing in Madagascar. They called it Malaia. I picked through a parcel of a few kilos and only found about 4 pieces that would cut 2-4ct stones that were essentially eye clean (most other pieces were not only small but had black inclusions). A few others also probably got some samples of this material. The bulk of the parcel was purchased by a company who cut some of the material and named it based on the color of the cut material - Imperial Garnet. This company has said that other material was purchased from the same source, and that my latest faceted pieces came from the newer parcels - note that the RI is 1.74 (for most of the pieces) instead of 1.76 (reference G&G article, the photographed stone came from the original source I purchased the rough from and the black platelets are present), there really is no anomalous refraction, but there is an interesting color shift from a rosy pink to beigy tan. Champagne garnet seems to be a fairly constant color (not much of a color shift if any) coming from another dealer who created the term Champage garnet - the color is similar to champage (a beige color). I termed the phrase Imperial Malaia to indicate the color and what garnet group dealers thought it would most likely fall into. This story is quite convoluted!

Do you have any idea when an article on my Mali garnet with the orange crown and Tsavorite colored pavillion will be written up in G&G?

Also, I had sent a small piece of polished garnet along with the other pieces for you to look at. Did you or your colleagues look at this and determine which group of the garnet species this fell into? I was curious to know if it was Rhodolite, Malaia, Spessartite, etc.

I am including a list of other stones that you might have an interest in examining. I have also found a 2.5+ct emerald cut sapphire/ruby - a wonderfully bright Kashmir-like blue (with parallell zoning) and a light pink, about a 60/40 split. This might be of interest to your readers:

7.6+ct color change sapphire
(Kashmir Blue to Purple, over 50 years old, recut, origin is Sri Lanka). Christie's
said it was the finest they had seen.

A 500ct Watermelon Slice (6-8mm thick) from the 1972 Newry Maine Tourmaline
Strike - Carl Francis of the Harvard Gemological Museum indicated to me in 1994
that it was the best watermelon slice that he had seen.

A 21+ct U.S. faceted Neon Apatite, eye clean, super cutting, super color - superb
and a museum piece

If I can be of assistance by sending any of these pieces to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.


L. Allen Brown
Gemologist - GIA
All That Glitters