Tsavorite is a green garnet that is often mistaken for emeralds. That’s because it’s composed of calcium aluminum silicate with traces of vanadium or chromium. As one of the newer members to the jewelry market, it is proving it’s worth as one of the more brilliant and durable stones available today and, as a result, it is demanding top prices. Its discovery, powers and properties make it worth considering when you’re seeking to buy a piece of jewelry that is not only unique but also precious.

General Information About Tsavorite

Brilliant Green Tanzanian Tsavorite

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In 1967 a geologist prospector, Campbell Bridges, began exploring new areas long the Tanzania and Kenya borders. While searching, a water buffalo charged at him and he plunged into a gully in order to evade the beast. When he looked around, he discovered unusual stones protruding from a deposit of green grossular within the mountain gully. He took samples and tried to export them. However, the Tanzania’s government had just embraced socialism and made commercial mining impossible throughout the country. As a result, all of his attempts were blocked.

Believing that the deposit he found was part of a larger one that extended into Kenya, he went back to work and in 1971 in the Tsavo East National Park he found what he had been hoping for. Although tsavorite quickly became popular among gem specialists, in 1974 Tiffany & Co. saw the potential and launched a marketing campaign which made the stone more popular. A dispute broke out over control of the mine and in 2009 Bridges was murdered. The stone was given its name by Sir Henry Platt, President of Tiffany & Co., in honor of the location of its discovery. It has also been found in the Toliara Providence in Madagascar.

Properties of Tsavorite

Tsavoite is one of two types of green garnet. Here is some other information that you might be interested in. When cut, it is an amazing looking gemstone that is also considered a highly saturated green stone.

Species: Grossularite;
Hardness: 7-7.5;
Color: Intense green to yellowish green and bluish green;
Chrystal Structure: Cubic;
Transparency: Transparent to translucent;
Luster: Vitreous;
Density: 3.57-3.73;
Fracture: Conchoidal, Uneven;
Inclusions: As a Type II clarity stone, tsavorite will sometimes contain small graphite platelets, asbestos fibers, feathers, needles and fingerprint inclusions.

In nature the stone can be found in metamorphic rock and has a strong neodymium magnetism. That’s because in the Neoproterozoic period, extensive folding and refolding of rock occurred. It led to the gem forming inclusions that turned out to be strong identifying features. Tsavorite is attracted to the magnets because of its iron or manganese properties. Additionally, the refractive index (1.734-1.759) gives it a high brilliance making it unique among other types of garnets and gemstones. As a result, it does not have to be enhanced or treated in any way.

raw, uncut tsavorite

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Metaphysical Details About Tsavorite

Garnets, in general, are considered travelers’ stones. It is even believed that the Ark in Noah’s time was guided by a garnet lantern. When it comes to tsavorite, it is believed that those who wear it will be endowed with strength, positivity, and vitality. Additionally, it enhances the immune system, metabolism and respiration while detoxifying the body. Today the Hindu’s believe that tsavorite is associated with Anahata which is considered to be the heart of the chakra. That chakra is related to decision-making, compassion, love and psychic healing. As a result, the gem is believed to be able to calm emotions. It is also used as a Feng Shui gem and is believed to help a person find the beauty within themselves and others.

Like most garnets, tsavorite is associated with Greek mythology and is a symbol for lasting love. It is often given when lovers will be parted to make certain they’ll return quickly. The superstition began when Persephone, daughter of Demeter who was the goddess of the harvest, once fell into the Underworld. The god of the Underworld, Hades, immediately fell in love and wanted Persephone as his wife but Demeter refused to allow anything on earth to grow until her daughter was returned. Hades finally agreed believing that Persephone would return to him. In exchange for eating six seeds from a pomegranate upon her return to earth, she was forced to spend six months of each year in the Underworld with Hades. Demeter would become so distraught that she refused to allow anything to grow and the period each year became known as winter.

The Mining Operation

Since it is so rare, tsavorite is difficult for mines to meet the needs of the number of jewelers requesting it. It can only be found in Tanzania, Kenya and, most recently, in Madagascar although in small amounts. In addition to it’s limited availability, the quality is often less than ideal due to inclusions with only a few, larger stones of quality found anywhere.

Many of the smaller mining operations are located along fault systems especially those in Southern Kenya. Tsavorite is mined in deep, underground tunnels by hand using between 10-50 miners. For those working within the Tsavos East National Park, however, predators are also a constant threat. Regardless of where a mine is located, it’s a risky business. The larger the operation, the more necessary it becomes to invest in mine engineering, infrastructure, geological studies and security. Due to it’s current rarity along with the fact it looks like an emerald but cannot be synthetically duplicated, it is likely that it will remain a collector’s gem for the foreseeable future.

Examples of Famous Jewelry Containing Tsavorite

After the launch by Tiffany & Co. in 1974, tsavorite soon became a client favorite. Its brilliance and vitreous luster created an intoxicating appeal especially once the gem was set in gold or silver metal. Today it’s often mixed with other gems as well and, since more readily available in smaller sizes, is often set in a pave style such as in Tiffany & Co’s tsavorite and diamond ringseahorse brooch and chandelier earrings that contain a mix of tsavorite and emeralds. In 2007 at the Tucson Gem Show, the world’s largest tsavorite garnet was put on display weighing an amazing 325.14 carats.

325.14 carats tsavorite

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Final Thoughts

Tsavorite gems are extremely rare, even more so than emeralds. As a result, 85% of those mined are under 1 carat in weight, 10% are over 1 carat and 2.5% are over 2 carats. Additionally, clean specimens are difficult to find. Fortunately, they are durable stones that have been found suitable for everyday wear. Today, they are becoming more readily available through many online sites.
If you have any questions or have personal experiences wearing tsavorite, please let us know what you think.