Mahenge Umbalite Garnet Gemstone
With a unique range of color, from purplish-pink to purple and orange-pink, Mahenge umbalite went from being an outcast stone to one of the most coveted garnets on the market today.
Garnets are unusual among gemstones, as each variety represents a particular blend of gem proprietary to where it is found. Mahenge umbalite is a rare stone, featuring a unique blend of pyrope, almandine and spessartine garnets, not often seen in today’s market.
Mahenge Umbalite Color Range
Mahenge umbalite ranges in color from a tantalizing purplish-pink of a fresh orchid to the deeper purple of a lilac. Other times, orange-pinks comparable to imperial topaz are witnessed. Compared to rhodolite garnet, its closest cousin, umbalite features less red blush, resulting in a cooler colored stone, a result of the trace amounts of spessartine found within.
Other Quality Factors
Like many other garnets, Mahenge umbalite looks its best in smaller sizes, as the gem’s full potential of color display comes to the fore. Many stones get darker as they get bigger, and this is particularly the case with garnets. While the intensity and vibrancy of color in a colored gemstone is its most important factor, the effect can become spoiled when the hue is too dark.
Coupled with umbalite’s excellent dispersion, and eye-clean clarity, this stone sparkles all day, making it the perfect companion for jewelry that transitions well from day to night. A near diamond-like luster keeps it sparkling! Round and oval shapes are the most popular for faceting, as this best helps display the color potential of a stone while providing the largest sizes.
Mahenge Umbalite Jewelry and Care
In addition, with a Mohs hardness of seven to seven and a half, umbalite is a great stone to consider for daily wear jewelry. It’s resistant to abrasion, and not likely to scratch. Garnets have fair to good durability, ensuring they survive the rigors of frequent handling. Wear umbalite jewelry with confidence, as this stone is low maintenance and easy to clean. A simple solution of mild dish soap and lukewarm water, plus a soft bristle brush is all that’s needed. Dry gently with a soft cloth.
Mahenge umbalite is not treated in any way. It’s a great companion jewel for anyone who fancies imperial topaz, rhodolite garnet, purple garnet, kunzite, or Rose de France amethyst!
Is Umbalite a Birthstone?
• Mahenge umbalite is a garnet, and garnets are the birthstone for January. In fact, garnets have been used in birthstone jewelry since at least the 15th century. Traditionally, red garnets most often come to mind when thinking of this gem, but luckily for January babies, there are a variety of exciting garnets from which to choose. The calm and refreshing pink and purple hues of Mahenge umbalite make an excellent addition to this growing selection.
Malaya Garnet or Umbalite?
• A minor controversy surrounds the umbalite name, and it may sometimes be referred to as malaya (or malaia) garnet. In Swahili, “malaya” is a word for outcast or outsider. When this material was first found, dealers showed no interest in it, preferring other specimens at the time. Dubbing the stone “malaya” was a way of describing it as a trash stone by miners and dealers. It wasn’t until American and German buyers expressed interest in the new material that it began to take off. As anyone who has seen a polished specimen can attest, umbalite is a breathtaking stone undeserving of its old moniker.
• Adding to the confusion? Many thousands of carats of poor-quality brown garnet flooded the market in the early 1980’s. Unscrupulous dealers of this junky material sold it under the malaya name, further tarnishing this beautiful gem’s budding reputation. Compared to genuine Mahenge umbalite, there’s no way to confuse the two when viewed side-by-side.
• Very rarely, umbalite may be called pyralspite, in reference to its rare composition of pyrope, almandine, and spessartine (spessartite) garnets.
Location: Morogoro Tanzania
Umbalite is a rarely seen gemstone, and for the longest time, it was only known to occur in the Umba Valley. In fact, umbalite’s name is related to its place of discovery – the Umba River area of northeastern Tanzania. The area is a famous mining locality, well-known around the world for producing sapphires and garnets. Umbalite was first identified in the late ‘70s.
Unfortunately, irregular mining practices have kept the supply entering the market limited for many years.
Mahenge Umbalite Origins
With such a complex and unusual blend of garnets making umbalite, it was never expected to be found again. That what makes the recent discoveries of Mahenge umbalite so exciting! Mahenge is already loved for its colorful spinel gems, and the discovery of umbalite in 2015 adds another dynamic jewel to the country’s gemological bounty.
Mining Umbalite in Mahenge
Mahenge is a limestone plateau area in the Ulanga district. Artisanal miners use traditional tools such as shovels and picks to mine rough umbalite from this region. Frequently, it can be found in alluvial deposits in the plateau. Alluvium is loose chunks of rock, sand, gravel and other mixed material that’s been weathered and moved by natural forces, such as weather patterns like rain.
• Ranks 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale.
• Color presents as a purplish-pink to purple or orange-pink hue.
• Sourced from Mahenge, Ulanga, Morogoro region, Tanzania.
• All natural. No known treatments.
• May also be known as malaya garnet or pyralspite.