The origin of anomalous birefringence of grossular–andradite (grandite) garnets from skarns in Mali and Russia was considered. The crystals had complex optical patterns which can be induced by superposition of two phenomena: mismatch compositional strain (stress birefringence) and growth ordering of atoms (growth dissymmetrization). Study of the crystals using several experimental techniques (optical microscopy, microprobe analysis, X-ray diffraction topography and X-ray single crystal diffraction) as well as calculations of anomalous birefringence has confirmed this hypothesis. Depending on the crystal composition and growth conditions, the relative magnitude of each phenomenon controls the various optical effects. As a result one can see two groups of crystals which are found to have fundamentally different anomalous optical properties: crystals with low (<0.001) and high (0.001–0.015) values of birefringence. The spatial distribution of birefringence within each group is different and this fact is related to different mechanisms causing optical anomalies: stress birefringence and growth dissymmetrization for these two groups, respectively.