Spessartine, previously called spessartite, is one of the most rare forms of garnet. Because of its bright orange color, it is also known as Mandarin garnet. The name spessartine comes from the Spessart district of Bavaria. Spessartine can be confused with hessonite garnet or yellow topaz. However upon detailed inspection, its lace or feather-like inclusions make spessartine distinguishable. Depending on its chemical composition, the stone can range in color from orange to dark red, reddish brown, orange-pink, orange-red, brownish yellow and sometimes almost black. Bright orange specimen, however, are the most highly prized. These orange colored stones are pure, while other colored stones have iron content, which changes the orange to a darker color. Faceted gemstones bring out the best color.
Spessartine rates a 6.5 to 7.5 on the hardness scale and has no cleavage. It has a vitreous to greasy luster and is transparent to translucent. Transparent crystals have a very high luster. Stones are usually cut into step, cabochon, or brilliant cuts. Stones larger than ten carats are very rare. Spessartine is found in alluvial deposits and granite pegmatites as isolated, well-formed crystals, which is the typical form garnets are found in. Until 1991, gem quality forms of spessartine were rare. In 1991 however, gem quality stones (Mandarin garnets) were discovered at Kombat Mine, Otavi, in northern Namibia. These gem quality discoveries continued afterwards, and beautiful specimen continue to be found in Nigeria and Fujian, China.
Highly prized specimens are also found in the Little Three Mine in California. Spessartine from Kashmir is called Kasmirine. Other sources for spessartine include Sri Lanka, Myanmar, East Africa, Nuristan, Afghanistan, Sahatany Valley, Madagascar, and Baltistan, Pakistan. In the United States, spessartine can be found in San Diego County, California, and Middlesex County, Connecticut. Beautiful violet-red specimens are found in Colorado and Maine.
Spessartine has many positive attributes as a healing stone. Physically, it treats lactose intolerance and other problems in assimilating calcium. Mentally, it is a great stone for those who lack confidence. It helps the wearer recognize his strengths, and allows him to start on his true life path. Spessartine has also been said to stimulate the analytical parts of the mind. It can also bring about a great feeling of calm.