Umbalite garnet is a relatively new species of garnet found in Africa.
It is very red, very sparkly, and a high quality garnet crystal.
Since the chemical composition of garnet is variable, it can be difficult to tell an umbalite garnet from other species of garnet.
Here are some ways to identify it.
What is Umbalite Garnet?
‘Garnet’ is an umbrella term for a wide variety of red-colored gems.
Umbalite garnet is a specific kind of garnet recently found in Tanzania, usually found in rivers.
It is a type of rhodolite gem, which refers to garnets in the pink to red color scheme, although umbalite has a characteristic purple tone.
The word ‘rhodolite’ comes from the Greek word ‘rhodon’, which means ‘rose-like’.
As the name suggests, it’s of a more lightly colored species of garnet than the traditional deep red.
Like most other types of garnet, it is typically found as geometric crystalline structures embedded within metamorphic rocks and sometimes igneous rocks.
It is a very hard crystal, used since ancient times for jewelry, ornaments, and inlays.
Garnet comes in many different colors, but the umbalite variety is specifically in the rose pink to red spectrum.
However, the most sought-after umbalite garnets are actually purple; this is the most well-known color of umbalite garnets.
In this range of colors, garnets are called pyralpites.
Since garnet can have many different combinations of chemical compositions, there are a few distinctive factors that could potentially give rise to the red hue.
Typically, iron can cause red coloring, while manganese is responsible for pink.
A combination of both minerals is also possible.
How to Identify Umbalite Garnet
Since there are so many different species of garnet, it can be tricky to identify umbalite garnet specifically.
Here are some ways to help you find the real thing.
Look at the color
As stated above, umbalite garnet is particularly famous for its purple variety.
However, this species can range from a light, pinkish color to a deep purple.
Some also take on a more reddish tone.
Anything that strays outside of the pink to purple range, including orange and indigo, can be discounted.
Do keep in mind that it does come in a small range of colors and that this should be a starting point in identifying the stone.
Look at the clarity
Like other species of garnet, umbalite garnet is a very clear stone.
It typically doesn’t have any inclusions and is one consistent color throughout.
It is generally a pretty transparent crystal, but it sometimes can be found in more opaque clusters.
Look for the luster
Luster is the term used for how much light is reflected off a stone.
Since garnet is crystalline, it has what is known as a vitreous luster.
This means that it has a luster similar to that of glass.
Light easily reflects off of it, making it a very sparkly stone.
This even applies to the garnets that are opaque; it has a very reflective surface.
This is what makes it such a popular stone for jewelry; when faceted, it gives quite a shine.
Look for the hardness
The MOHS scale is the simplest way to gauge a stone’s hardness.
It is a scale from one to ten, with one being the softest and ten being the hardest.
A stone higher up on the scale will be able to scratch something lower down, but not the other way around.
Garnet is a very hard stone, usually between seven and a half to eight and a half.
To test the hardness, try scratching something lower on the scale with your garnet.
A steel nail is a common household item, usually between six and seven.
If your garnet can scratch the steel, then you know that it’s harder than the nail.
If you want to be even more accurate, try scratching the garnet with something higher up.
It’s difficult to find something harder than a garnet, but the corundum stone is a nine.
If you can get your hands on one of those, you can try the scratch test.
If the garnet passes both tests, there’s a good chance that it’s genuine.
See if it’s magnetic
One of the more surprising aspects of garnet is that it is magnetic.
Since it can contain iron, manganese, or both, it will have a decent response to a magnet.
Try picking it up with another magnet or sticking it to your fridge.
If it shows a magnetic response, it may very well be a true garnet.
Be wary of other stones that look like umbalite garnet
Purple is a relatively rare color for most gemstones, so there are few other stones that can be mistaken for umbalite.
However, there are some sneaky purple gemstones to watch out for.
Amethyst is a purple quartz crystal that can take on a similar purple hue to umbalite garnet, especially when carved into a faceted diamond shape for jewelry.
Purple topaz also can be easily mistaken.
Additionally, be careful of other species of garnet.
They come in many colors and can easily pose as umbalite.
Garnet throughout history
Garnet of all species has been used since 3100 B.C., starting with the ancient Egyptians.
They inserted garnet into jewelry, carvings, and talismans as the symbol of life.
The ancient Romans used garnets for signet rings and it was a very popular gemstone for nobility in the Middle Ages; it was even thought to aid in fending off the Black Plague.
Many cultures have likened garnet to pomegranate seeds, which is a symbol for fertility and love, and is often associated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite.
Some modern day spiritual practices utilize this stone as the stone of strength and self-empowerment.
How to care for umbalite garnet
Since it is such a hard and durable stone, umbalite garnet doesn’t need much careful attention.
To clean, it can be doused with water and left out to dry.
Be sure to keep it away from other softer stones, especially if they are kept together in a jewelry box.
Umbalite garnet is a highly desired stone.
While garnet is abundant all over the world, umbalite garnet is rare and valuable.
Use the tips above for properly identifying it, and be sure to take good care of it.
You might also enjoy learning about: