Learning Library

Colour Change Garnet Feature

A true dream for the collector.



It all began on the 26th of June 2011. We walked into our friend’s booth at the Hong Kong Gem Show: he looked excited, yet scared to death at the same time. Instantly I knew something was up. His salesman politely asked the two or three young Chinese business customers on the stand to come back a little later. Everyone was quietly ushered off the stand. I lent across to my wife and remarked that something strange was happening. Over the past nine years in the business, attending 7 to10 international tradeshows a year I had never experienced anything quite like this. Then the situation progressed from the bizarre to the ridiculous, as his two salesmen stood at the entrance of his exhibition booth and stopped anyone else from entering his stand.

Vivek smiled and looked at me and said, “Are you ready?” I glanced at my wife with a look that said, ‘What on Earth is going on?!’ I am one of the most experienced gem buyers on the planet and this experience was as if I had stepped into a deep dream. I must have looked and sounded like a complete idiot as I replied to Vivek, “Hurry up, I have got some big meetings planned this afternoon”, he just smiled at me and his brother said, “Steve just get ready for the most amazing thing you have seen in years!” I replied that I had six kids and had been at all of the births so nothing he had could impress me to such an extent.

I didn’t need to speak: my wife’s face said it all. We stared at each other and just smiled. If this was a real gem and not a lab created piece, we had both just witnessed the most incredible miracle of nature. Over the past seven years we had seen some of the finest gemstones on the planet, but this was surreal. Before our eyes we had just seen a bluish green gemstone change purple under torch light. Not slightly, but 100%. “Do it again!” I exclaimed. But this time I picked a random piece out of a parcel of about 60 gemstones. The exact same phenomenon happened again. This was equal to the best colour change I had seen even in an Alexandrite, but I am talking about the sort of colour change you might witness in one piece of Alexandrite out of 500 to 600 and that might set you back $10,000 to $20,000 per carat. However this complete colour change was happening with every piece, and I mean every single one.

“Ok Vivek, stop messing with me”, I said. “What the heck is it, it can’t be real!”. So we started a kid’s game where I had three guesses. My first guess was that it was synthetic, it had to be; I had never seen anything else like this. Vivek responded that it was completely genuine and in fact had undergone no treatment or enhancement whatsoever. So my mind started racing, I knew it was not Alexandrite as this was the first gemstone that I had ever studied back in 2004. I also knew that it was not likely to be a Colour Change Sapphire, as I had just bought one of the biggest parcels ever sold and had studied it for days before making my decision to invest. So I made an educated guess and suggested that, against all research, trade experience and knowledge, that it must be a new Colour Change Garnet. I was almost embarrassed as I said it, as this was a bluish green gem that changed colour and Blue Garnets are virtually unheard of. To find a deposit that not only had Blue Garnet, but Blue Garnet that could change colour was unthinkable. But I had seriously run out of options.

Vivek and his brother stood and smiled at me, “Steve, this is the most amazing gem we have ever brought to you.” The hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I knew the bothers had an office in Arusha Tanzania, so out of the blue I said, “I have changed my mind, but please don’t tell me it is a colour change Tanzanite.” They fell on the floor laughing. “No Steve, that would be amazing, but actually geologically speaking this is even insanely rarer.” Right then, I knew that my first guess was most likely right. “It is Garnet isn’t it?!” I shouted.

Without confirming my question, Vivek said, “Before you get too excited, can you sell it for the same price as an Alexandrite?” “What do you mean?” I replied. Vivek explained that miners in Arusha who had grown up on the profits of Tanzanite over the years knew how to make sure they received a fair price for their discoveries. I explained that I had no issue on this as I was a fully supportive of fair-trade; I explained that I was happy to pay a fair price as long as it represented fair value for all concerned.

So after twenty minutes of being in his booth, out of view of all other dealers and traders, he confirmed that it was in fact a rare Colour Change Blue Garnet, a gem that the world had never seen before. We all sat there with our two torches and a 10x loupe. Under the different lights from the torches switching from candescent to incandescent, we witnessed the gem constantly changing colour from a bluish green to a purplish red colour. This wasn’t a colour change you needed to use your imagination with. It was right there in your face. This was without doubt the best optical phenomenon I had ever seen in a gemstone. “What is the price?” I boldly demanded. Vivek explained how he had sold a 1.3ct piece the day before for $5000 per carat (£3125), but other than that he had removed the parcel from the shelf of his booth awaiting my visit.    

So nervously we concluded a deal. He would give me exclusive rights to the finest grades coming out of the mine for three months, but at a price slightly higher than I had negotiated for a small parcel of top grade Brazilian Alexandrite with a mine owner on his booth only three hours before! In fact, if three hours before anyone had asked me if I would ever pay a higher price for a colour change gemstone than I had just invested in Alexandrite, I would have laughed and questioned the gem knowledge of the person posing the question. But this gem is something else. This is a gem that I would insist my mother went without food for for a week to obtain, or my sister give up buying shoes for a whole year to grab a piece.

OK, let’s get down to the slightly more detailed stuff. Not only is this a true colour change gemstone with amazing shift that is instantly recognised by even the first time gemstone viewer: this gem actually has a three change colour shift that I have never seen before. To the naked eye in daylight the colour is a greenish blue, however take a photo with your phone or digital camera and the colour is most undeniably blue. Then shut your curtains and turn on your lamp or light a candle and the gem turns a purplish red: not just slightly but completely. And not just in one or two pieces, but in every single piece.

On top of its colour change ability, the gem also features a vivid body colour, fantastic brilliance and a lovely adamantine lustre. Colour Change Garnet from Tanzania just about has it all. Plus as any gemmologist will tell you, the fact that it has a teal blue colour means that even without its magical colour change ability, it is already the rarest member of the Garnet family!

Unfortunately, quantity is incredibly low and so far we have only got hold of 97 carats, but let’s hope we can obtain more. How rare is it? So far I would put it up there with natural Red Diamonds and on even a slightly higher platform than Russian Alexandrite, but let’s wait and see what happens. What I can confidently say, that beauty wise, I have never seen a gem quite like it.

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