Rhodolite

“By her, who in this month is born, no gems save Garnets should be worn; they will insure her constancy, true friendship, and fidelity.”

Unknown Author, Pamphlet Published by Tiffany & Co. (1870)

Etymology

Mountain rhododendron

Mountain Rhododendron

Rhodolite derives its name from the Greek ‘rhodo’ (rose) and ‘lithos’ (stone), and was coined by George Frederick Kunz for it similarity to mountain Rhododendron (Rhododendron Catawbiense).

Chemical composition of Rhodolite

Rhodolite belongs to the Garnet family, specifically to a blend of two ‘pure’ varieties - Almandine and Pyrope.

Rhodolite extraction

Rhodolite is usually found in sedimentary rock, or in host metamorphic rocks. The best examples are usually mined in Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and a relatively new deposit located in the Kangala region of Tanzania. Since 1987, brightly colored Raspberry Rhodolite has also been found in other parts of Tanzania, such as Ruvuma, Mtwara and Lindi.

Rhodolite and Mozambique Garnet side by side

Rhodolite and Mozambique Garnet side by side

The history of Rhodolite

Rhodolite was discovered in 1882 in Macon County, North Carolina, and was named by renowned gemologist George Frederick Kunz, who described it as “pale rose-red inclining to purple like that of certain roses and rhododendrons."

Brazilian rhodolite

Brazilian Rhodolite

Properties of Rhodolite

Rhodolite appears different to classic red Garnet, which presents in combinations of pink, red and purple. Its unique beauty is due to the particular hues of purple and a high degree of transparency and shine; Rhodolite usually displays bright colors enriched by violet flashes. As a Type II gemstone, Rhodolite typically has a few minor inclusions that may be visible to the naked eye which, if they do not impact the beauty of the individual stone, are tolerated.

An example of Rhodolite from Rajasthan, India

An example of Rhodolite from Rajasthan, India

Varieties of Rhodolite

A few varieties of Rhodolite have been given commercial names that may cause confusion, as they are not always used consistently. The most well-known includes ‘Raspberry Rhodolite,' named for its fine purplish-pink color resembling the fruit and ‘Grape Garnet,' whose intense purple red color is reminiscent of fine merlot or cabernet wine.

The marvelous raspberry rhodolite

The marvelous Raspberry Rhodolite

Care for Rhodolite

Rhodolite, like other Garnets, may be damaged by extreme thermal changes. Steam and ultrasound cleaning should also not be used.