When a strange, orangy-pinkish-reddish garnet was discovered in the mid-1960s, in the Umba Valley of Tanzania, locals and experienced gemologists didn’t know what to make of it. The odd stone was often tossed in with parcels of sought-after rhodolite garnets, where buyers promptly rejected it, calling it by the local Swahili word, “malaia” – meaning “out of the family” or “outcast.” Today, however, the outcast shines in gemological circles, and its unique qualities are the very reason for its special allure.
On a trip to Tanzania in May 2012, geologist / gemologist Cynthia Renee discovered this rare specimen of the exotic stone. Despite its already fine cut, she commissioned an award-winning gem cutter to bring out more of the stone’s extraordinary hues. It isn’t easy being malaia, but it is rewarding.