Melanite is the black variety of Andradite garnet. It's rare, but not very rare like it's brother's Topazolite and incredibly rare Demantoid.
It get's it's black color from titanium inclusions, but is made up primarily of calcium, iron and silica, Ca3Fe2(SiO4)3.
The titanium content is interesting to me because benitoite also contains titanium. The area where my melanites come from is a small section of the San Benito Mountains which is where benitoite was discovered. Some millennia ago when the mountains were thrust up, rich fluids that contained titanium came up and formed melanite, perovskite or benitoite.
Here is a picture of the landscape in the San Benito Mountains. The river in the center is called Clear Creek. It's loaded with collectable minerals like jadeite, uvarovite, plasma agate and the andradite varieties. The soil is very hostile to plant life in certain areas due to asbestos and mercury.
Melanites, actually all andradites, have a high refractive index, which means they shine. It makes them excellent specimens to be used in jewelry. In addition they are fairly hard which makes them suitable for jewelry too.
Another property of melanites is their magnetism. Due to their iron content they are magnetic.
These melanites I am showing you were collecting in the 1970's by a famous collector named Al McGuinness. I recently acquired these from another collector who was friends with Al and went collecting with him. They are higher end, nicer specimens and I am fortunate to have gotten my hands on them as Al passed in 1990, https://mineralogicalrecord.com/labels.asp?colid=789.
I'm planning on heading up to the San Benito's in June with a few other collectors and we are going to seek out melanite, topazolite, demantoid, uvarovite, neptunite, joaquinite, perovskite and benitoite so wish us luck!
Thanks for reading!