Journey to the stone podcast with Don Kogen about Demantoid Garnet

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Today in Journey to the Stone, in this episode, I take you into the world of one of the most collected Garnets in existence. A Garnet that has more dispersion than Diamond, that has captured the hearts of the world for over a hundred years: this particular Garnet is extremely collectible, and it originated in the first discoveries out of Russia. This particular material is known as Demantoid.

Now, Demantoid Garnet has a characteristic within the crystal structure that is different than any other Garnet, giving it this superpower to disperse fire like a Diamond. It actually—the dispersion of Demantoid surpasses that of Diamond. So what you're going to see in a Demantoid is not only the green, which is the body color; you're going to see a whole array of all different types of colors. You're going to see rainbows, reds, greens, blues, oranges—all popping through the crystal structure because of the dispersion capability. So you see the way the fire comes out of that stone is actually quite remarkable. And that's why you'll see that a lot of Demantoids are actually cut like Diamonds to bring out that maximum dispersion. So they try to mimic the correct angles of 40.25%. They try to get the faceting right, you know, the perfect faceting to bring out that dispersion. But let me take you back a little bit to where it all began.

So here we are in Yakutia in Russia. This is where Demantoid was originally discovered, back in the day. And this is where Fabergé, the famous designer in Russia, made it popular with royals, with czars, etc. You'll see a lot of the Fabergé eggs will have Demantoid Garnets, etc. Now, Russian Demantoids have a characteristic within the crystal structure that other Demantoids do not have. They have what's known as the horsetail. And it's the first time in history that a gemstone increases in value because of an inclusion. If it has a horsetail within the stone, the value increases because so many people want to collect the Demantoids with this horsetail inclusion. Now, it’s really about preference, to be honest. I have seen Demantoids that have the perfect horsetail. But honestly, when that horsetail is right through the crystal structure, the perfect horsetail—a lot of times it will block the dispersion of light, because light can't move as fast through the crystal structure, because there is, you know, this horsetail blocking the fire coming off of the back facet. So sometimes that can cause a little bit, a slight haziness.

 




But in Gem-gem quality Russian Demantoids, they can still have a pop that will blow your head off. I mean: really, really amazing. And that is the Demantoid that basically dominated the world for over 100 years. That is the one that everybody knows. Now, if you look at what these gems basically demand at auction, they have gone as high as $50,000 a carat. There is no other Garnet that even comes close to the price of Demantoid, and especially Russian Demantoid. But then all of a sudden—there we were in the Erongo region of Namibia. We're out there in the Erongo, which is the western part of Namibia in Africa. I went to Africa, I started going to Africa 20-odd years ago. And this was like, I mean, this was crazy times. I mean, they were discovering gems in different parts of Africa. Nobody knew what the heck was going on. It was just wild. It was just crazy times across the board. And there we were: I found myself in Namibia. Now, Namibia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. You've got desert, you've got this… Here we are cruising around in a Land Rover. I mean, the car must have been like 40 years old. It's what the people used for safari. But it was all we could get at that time. But basically, we're cruising around, looking for gemstone discoveries.

Now Namibia produces primarily Tourmalines, but we run across occasionally Aquamarine as well, full transparency; and it does produce a little bit of other gems like the Mandarin Garnet, etc., all pretty much in small sizes. But there it was. We found this green stone that we knew: Wow, this is different. And it's sort of different, very different than the material that comes out of Russia. It tends to be 100% crystallized. So when you're looking at Namibian Demantoid, you're looking at fire, you're looking at sparkle, you're looking at pop, you're looking at dispersion, you're looking at brilliance. And it's very similar to what happened with—if you look at the Burmese Ruby, and what happened to, for example, the Gemfields’ Mozambique Ruby, etc. It is exactly the same situation.

Burmese Ruby has been around for a long time. Therefore, it was always the dominant seller in the global market. Right? It was always demanding the highest price per carats. It still demands the highest price per carat because people want to buy into the historical value of the king of old gems. The Burma Ruby. Mozambique has come on the scene, and if you look at the auction houses now, Mozambique Ruby is already making a statement and continuing to grow within the market as well, because there are some amazing Mozambique Rubies that will basically rival some of the finest Burma Ruby. So it really depends. And same with Namibia and Russian Demantoid.

So Namibia started coming on the scene. You got some bigger sizes coming out of Namibia in the early stages, but still, very small. 99% is under a half a carat. So finding a 1.00 carat Namibian Demantoid will still already set you back thousands per carat. Now they got control of the Namibian Demantoid mine, right? And you know some miner got control of it, named it the Green Dragon Mine, and off we go, right? Branded it, built the mining operation, and started selling rough into the Tucson market as well as all over the world. They did a good job. They were doing a lot of cutting in Bangkok. I remember seeing them send rough into Bangkok and they were cutting it. I knew the guy who was actually doing the cutting. I knew the guy who was also selling the stones after they were cut, etc. And that's how the market started to grow. But typical right now, there is very, very limited supply out of the Namibian market. There is just nothing out there.

Demantoid Garnet Ring by Kat Florence

So flash forward about five, seven years. Here I am in Madagascar now. I'm not thinking Demantoid at all. I’m thinking Sphene, I’m thinking Aqua, I’m thinking Sapphire, I’m thinking Ruby. And voilà: what do I do? I go to this village and no joke, full transparency, this is what happened. So I'm hanging out with this guy, and we're traveling up along the coast in the northern part of Madagascar. And he's working with the U.N. on carbon credits. I mean, carbon credits. I don't know anything about carbon credits. But something about carbon credits. And did you know—and I learned this as well—that the mangroves produce ten times more oxygen than the green forests, or the forests in Brazil. Right? The rainforest. And I'm thinking, how can the mangroves produce ten times the oxygen of the rainforest? Now, I don't know if this is exact. Listen, I don't work for the UN, but I'm hanging out with this guy. We're going village to village. We're looking at the different locales, looking at the mangroves, and no joke, this guy—we meet the villager of this town in Madagascar, and he's got this green stone on his table while we're sitting there talking to him. And I'm looking at this green stone, I start touching it, playing with it, and they're talking about, you know, carbon credits and how they got to save the mangroves, and all that good stuff that gives us the breath, the air we breathe. Me, I keep looking at this green rock thinking, What the heck is this thing? What the heck is this thing I'm looking at?

I'm looking, looking, looking, looking, trying to figure out the crystal structure, thinking, okay, must be Tourmaline, must be this. It looks like Garnet, though. It looks like it's got, you know, the crystal structure. I'm, like, starting to drool, man. I'm starting to drool. Anyway, I convinced him to give me, you know, let me take the stone. I go back, I check what it is. And holy moly, we have discovered Demantoid in Madagascar. Unbelievable.

So I rush back. Come back to this village—of course, without the U.N. guy—and sit down with the village boss and say, hey, listen, where the heck do you get this stone? And he says, Oh, some of the villagers, they pull it out of the bank, they pull it out of the mangroves. And what they're doing is when the tide would drop, the villagers would jump in. The tide would drop, and it's sort of like a swampy mud water right amongst the mangroves. They hold on to the mangroves and they were putting in these small nets trying to dig out these particular Demantoids. So here we got: there's a Demantoid deposit in the middle of the mangroves. Who the heck would have ever thought that would be possible? But it was possible.

Well, guess what? I got to eat Madagascar cuisine for six weeks. I mean, that pot, that pot or that pot. But I stayed there for six weeks while we extracted all the Demantoid we could get. I got a lot of amazing stones out of Madagascar. There's no more mining of this material. I mean, they basically—it was a one shot wonder. I got all the rough. And these stones pop, you know, a variation of color very similar to Andradite, which is the mineral type of Demantoid. So they range from a greenish yellow all the way to that vibrant green color, like Demantoids. But they all have more dispersion than Diamonds.

So really crazy, exciting times when that happens, where, you know, something that nobody expects comes out of the blue. But hey, that's my experience: from carbon credits to Demantoid in Madagascar. Those were crazy days. Yeah. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this back story of the whole world of Demantoid. But I will tell you this: Demantoid is one of Mother Nature’s rarest gems. It is one of the most collectible gems in the world. And I will tell you, full transparency, it's only rising in price. So if you own a Demantoid of significant size, you win already. If you bought a 2.00 carat, a 3.00 carat, a 4.00 carat Demantoid, the prices are consistently and continuously growing. I mean, I've seen Namibian 10.00 carat Demantoid sell for $20,000, $25,000, even up to $30,000 a carat. 5.00 carats break, you know, $15,000, $20,000 a carat on a regular basis coming out of Namibia. Madagascar is a one shot, small wonder. So the pricing is in line with Namibian. They look identical, they look similar. They're very different than the Russian. They don't have the horsetail. They have all the sparkle; sparkles like a Diamond. So different type of material, but was very short-lived.

Dematoid Garnet

But hey, I bought the lion's share of it and sold it all over the world. You know, if you ever see a Demantoid cluster, like 1.00 carat or 2.00 carats in a cluster in a gold ring or something like that, I can assure you, most likely it’s come from me. The rough materials come from me because I was the man selling the Demantoid. That was what I did. But look, prices are only going up. No supply in the world market of any significant, you know, worthiness of talking about in the current market. So if you got a Demantoid, you know, enjoy the luster, share the brilliance, because it is a rare geological phenomena, and it is by far one of the rarest Garnets on record globally.

Well, that ends this episode of Journey to the Stone. If you have any questions, you know where to find me. Don't forget to sign up to the podcast. Don't forget to put on the reminders. Don't forget to—you know, whatever the, I don't know, the machine does, that smacks you on the side of the head that says, “Hey, new story from Don Kogen coming out weekly.” Whatever that is, sign up for that, push the button and enjoy the next discovery.

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