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Monday, March 16, 2015

Rhodolite Garnet: The Journey from Kenya to the Workshop, Via a New Zealand Winemaker

Behind this beautifully balanced natural color rhodolite garnet lies an intriguing story. 

By Chris Benham, co-founder and director of Inspired Jewellery Ltd.

The Umba river flows through the north-eastern mountain ranges of Tanzania and across Kenya, before meeting the Indian Ocean. This area is renowned for some of the world’s richest deposits of colored gemstones. It was in the Umba riverbed that this rhodolite garnet stone was found and purchased in its rough form by Neil McCallum, gemstone enthusiast, trader and cutter.

Neil has been described as “an incredibly clever man, a scientist (with a PHD from Oxford) and a perfectionist.” Well known as a pioneer in the wine industry for establishing the Dry River Vineyard, he is regarded as one of New Zealand’s greatest winemakers. Neil recently sold Dry River to American billionaire businessman Julian Robertson, so that he could pursue his other passion: gemstones. 


Upon Neil’s travels around the world in search of coveted gemstones, he came across this rhodolite garnet in Kenya, which he then brought back to New Zealand for cutting. It has been described by an industry expert quite simply as “without a doubt the finest rhodolite garnet you’ll ever see in your life.” Rhodolite garnets are red or purple in color and lighter in tone than typical garnet stones. The beauty of this 100% natural stone is that you will not find a finer color. Its balance is exceptional. You can turn the stone in any direction and the saturation remains absolutely even. 

The way the stone catches the light, showing off its fire and internal brilliance is quite mesmerizing. The next challenge is creating a design that does a gem such as this justice. 


The goal with designing this ring was to maintain its simplicity. The open four-claw setting surrounds the stone in a way that allows the viewer to appreciate the garnet in its entirety. The boldness of the stone is subtly and intentionally transitioned into the yellow gold band using two D color, VVS clarity heart shaped diamonds. The reason the heart shaped diamonds were used is that they take the big bold shape of the garnet and transition the eye nicely into the band. The claws have been set in the crest of the heart to give the visual appearance of a wider pear shaped diamond.

Jewelry News Network guest columnist, Chris Benham, is co-founder and director of Inspired Jewellery Ltd., Wellington, New Zealand, a global creative studio for specialist jewelry design. 

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes website.

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