Insertion of light elements such as H,C, or N in the R.sub.2 Fe.sub.17 (R=rare earth metal) series has been found to modify the magnetic properties of these compounds, which thus become prospective candidates for high performance permanent magnets. The most spectacular changes are increases of the Curie temperature, T.sub.c, of the magnetization, M.sub.s, and of coercivity, H.sub.c, upon interstitial insertion. A preliminary product having a component R--Fe--C,N phase is produced by a chemical route. Rare earth metal and iron amides are synthesized followed by pyrolysis and sintering in an inert or reduced atmosphere, as a result of which, the R--Fe--C,N phases are formed. Fabrication of sintered rare earth iron nitride and carbonitride bulk magnet is impossible via conventional process due to the limitation of nitridation method.