It’s a miner’s dream: to discover a gem that’s never been seen before.
“Miners will dig in a vein that they know produces certain gems, and every once in a while, they’ll pull something out that doesn’t look like anything they’ve ever seen. Obviously it’s a huge thrill,” says Robin Callahan, a renowned Bainbridge Island jeweler and owner of Robin Callahan Designs.
That’s what happened at an African mine in 2022, and as soon as Callahan saw pictures of the dazzling gem, she knew she wanted to create custom jewelry with it. The gem is officially called Malaya Chromium Vanadium Color Changing Garnet, but most collectors and jewelers now call it Dragon Garnet.
Aside from its rarity, what makes the Dragon Garnet special is its color range.
“What you typically see in the jewelry store is a dark red gem. But now we’ve found garnets in almost every color: mint, yellow, color-changing purple, fuschia, and a lot more,” Callahan says. “Different light affects different components within Dragon Garnet, so it can go from pink to peach, hot pink, neon pink, and even fluorescent pink.”
That’s right, in ultraviolet light, Dragon Garnet appears to glow.
“The Dragon Garnet is like the cool kid on the block right now, because it’s so rare and we don’t know how long it will last — it might just be this one mine vein, and it’s gone forever,” Callahan says.
That’s made it popular with collectors, museums, and in jewelry competitions. Callahan has acquired a small collection of the rare gem, typically in rough form, and she works with a range of award-winning lapidary artists to cut gems and bring out their sparkle.
“When a lapidary artist gets asked to cut a Dragon Garnet, they feel honored to cut a rare gem — it’s a chance to work with something they’ve never worked on before.”
Lapidary artist Kory Pettman took inspiration from the fiery colors of the stone (and it’s name) and cut one of Callahan’s Dragon Garnets into a dragon eye. It sold within seconds, and Callahan will be making a ring for the buyer.
Typically Dragon Garnets are in the one to three carat range, but Callahan has managed to acquire several above 3 carats, and the largest to date, an 8.9 carat gem. She also has a limited selection of Dragon Garnet beads, if you want to create a beaded necklace to match a custom-made pendant.
“One of the great things about garnet is that it’s not a super soft stone, so it’s great for everyday wear.”