Tsavorite

“Tsavorite is everything that a fine gemstone should be, and then some.”

Henry B. Platt, Former President & Chairman, Tiffany & Co.

Etymology

Tsavorite is the commercial name for Grossularite Green Garnet, coined in 1974 by Campbell and Henry B. Platt in honor of Tsavo National Park in Kenya. This iconic name is wonderfully emotive, firmly connecting the gem with one of Africa’s largest and most famous wildlife reserves.

A marvelous AAA tsavorite

A marvelous AAA Tsavorite

Chemical composition of Tsavorite

Tsavorite is a Ugrandite Garnet, and together with Pyralspite Garnet belongs to the large mineralogical family of Garnets. More specifically, Tsavorite is a Grossularite Garnet, one of the calcium Garnets (Ugrandite) together with Andradite (also known as Demantoid).

Tsavorite is colored by the substitution of vanadium, and occasionally chromium, the same elements that give Emerald its characteristic hues. More vanadium increases Tsavorite’s greens, while a yellowish tint indicates the presence of iron.

Tsavorite extraction

Most Tsavorite is extracted in Brazil, Canada, India, Italy, Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania.

The history of Tsavorite

Tsavorite was discovered by Campbell R. Bridges, the legendary Scottish geologist who was also the first person to bring Tanzanite to the GIA (Gemological Institute of America). He first encountered Tsavorite in 1961 and again in 1967 in Tanzania, but it was impossible to obtain permits to export precious gemstones during that time. He did not cease his search, however, and in 1971 he discovered other marvelous examples of Tsavorite in the Tsavo region in Kenya.

Campbell R. Bridges (1937-2009)

Campbell R. Bridges (1937-2009)

Properties of Tsavorite

The clarity standard for Tsavorite is eye-clean (no visible inclusions when the gem is examined 15 centimeters from the naked eye), Tsavorite is particularly sought after for its wonderful color and vivacious, luminous luster, which is different from Emerald in three ways. First, Tsavorite has a higher refractive index than Emerald, meaning light entering Tsavorite is bent at a greater angle than light entering Emerald. Second, Tsavorite has double the fire of Emerald, meaning twice the refraction, the splitting of light into its component colors. Third, Tsavorite’s single refractivity adds intensity to its color communication, while Emerald is doubly refractive.

The GIA classifies Tsavorite as a Type II gemstone, gems that typically grow with some minor inclusions in nature that may be eye-visible, like most Garnets, it possesses few inclusions. It might be cleaner and more brilliant than Emerald, but Tsavorite is plagued by scant availability, with most weighing less than 3 carats; only 2.5% of gemstones are over 2 carats. As Tsavorite is one of the most expensive Garnets and among the highest priced colored gemstones, understanding its size availability is critical.

Varieties of Tsavorite

Tsavorite and Emerald

Tsavorite and Emerald

First extracted around 1998 in the same area as Tanzanite, the Merelani Hills in Tanzania’s Arusha Region, Merelani Mint Garnet is a Green Grossularite Garnet named for its color and where it is mined. Similarly colored by trace amounts of vanadium, and occasionally chromium, Merelani Mint Garnet is basically a lighter tone and saturation of its better known relative, Tsavorite, which must be medium tone. Both are Green Grossularite Garnets and they occur in the same geological environment, but Merelani Mint Garnet is not saturated enough to be considered Tsavorite.

Care for Tsavorite

Tsavorite may not be subjected to either steam or ultrasound cleaning.