‘Mali garnets’ come from, tatatata, Mali, who’d have guessed (?), a landlocked West African country which also produces aquamarine, apatite, diamonds, diopside, all kinds of other garnets, opal, tourmaline, titanite, turquoise and zircon and, above all, lots of gold.
Despite this rich menu of valuable materials, Mali found fame only with a hybrid of grossularite and andratite (always a promising couple). The majority part of Mali Garnet is grossularite which delivers the colors: yellow, golden, greenish golden, golden cinnamon, orange and derivate thereof, while andratite, the chemical minority, provides the fire that also burns in demantoid, known for its outstanding dispersion, the heart and soul of brilliancy.
Like many other garnet varieties, the name ‘Mali Garnet’, is to a certain extend a marketing tool, and over time we may have Mali Garnets coming from, say, Madagascar (always a safe bet), like we now have Paraiba tourmalines not from Paraiba but from Mozambique, or Tsavorite coming not from the Tsavo National Park but from Madagascar. In the end, all that matters is a certain quality of color-tone combination with good dispersion based on a chemical composition that is consistent enough to make a certain name stick in the trade. Usually there is some cat-fighting and name-calling involved before the original source accepts its pirated brand-name being mined elsewhere but to my knowledge the brand protection of a gem variety is never as strong as in ‘real’ consumer brands. Try calling something Coca-Cola that is not and wait and see what happens. Call any sparkly golden-yellow grossluar-andratite garnet a ‘Mali Garnet’ and you go free, no jail-time.
What may we expect from Mali garnets? Good luster, not as good as a pure andratite, like demantoid, but working at it, plus fresh lively yellow-green-orange colors in ‘Light Medium 40’ to ‘Medium Dark 60’ tones. It shall be clean, otherwise no luster, and cut without window, otherwise a fish-eye will keep on staring at you for an eternity.
As so often, a mostly chromium colored green specialty is known, rare, and much desired.
The andratite part of the marriage limits growth, so Mali Garnets are usually not very big, a few carats make a happy size and a great show. In smaller size under 50 points they qualify as adamantine sidestones, or fantastic studs-material.