Malaia garnet, from Kenya

Malaia garnet Kenya

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Malaia garnet, from Kenya

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Malaia garnet or Malaya garnet is a gemological varietal name for light to dark slightly pinkish orange, reddish orange, or yellowish orange garnet, that are of a mixture within the pyralspite series pyrope, almandine, and spessartine with a little calcium. The name Malaia is translated from Swahili to mean, “one without a family”. It is found in east Africa, in the Umba Valley bordering Tanzania and Kenya.

Properties

Garnet species are found in many colors including red, orange, yellow, green, purple, brown, blue, black, pink, and colorless, with reddish shades most common.

A sample showing the deep red color garnet can exhibit.
Garnet species’ light transmission properties can range from the gemstone-quality transparent specimens to the opaque varieties used for industrial purposes as abrasives. The mineral’s luster is categorized as vitreous (glass-like) or resinous (amber-like).

Crystal structure

Garnets are nesosilicates having the general formula X3Y2(Si O4)3. The X site is usually occupied by divalent cations (Ca, Mg, Fe, Mn)2+ and the Y site by trivalent cations (Al, Fe, Cr)3+ in an octahedral/tetrahedral framework with [SiO4]4− occupying the tetrahedra. Garnets are most often found in the dodecahedral crystal habit, but are also commonly found in the trapezohedron habit. (Note: the word “trapezohedron” as used here and in most mineral texts refers to the shape called a Deltoidal icositetrahedron in solid geometry.) They crystallize in the cubic system, having three axes that are all of equal length and perpendicular to each other. Garnets do not show cleavage, so when they fracture under stress, sharp irregular pieces are formed (conchoidal).

Hardness

Because the chemical composition of garnet varies, the atomic bonds in some species are stronger than in others. As a result, this mineral group shows a range of hardness on the Mohs scale of about 6.5 to 7.5. The harder species like almandine are often used for abrasive purposes.

Malaia garnet, from Kenya

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