Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tsavorite - Story of the Favorite Gemstone Jewelry

Discovered in 1967 by the now legendary Scottish geologist, Campbell R. Bridges, tsavorite has quickly found favor as a precious colored gemstone of choice. Its brilliant green colors have overcome its lack of romantic lore and ancient history. Native to the dry grasslands of the high-plateau frontier between Kenya and Tanzania, tsavorite first came to light in the famed tanzanite producing area of Lelatema. Discovered as small green crystal pieces and granules inside geode like formations, gemological tests showed that these stunningly beautiful crystals were in fact a variety of green grossular garnet.

Showing high transparency and beautiful green color, gem dealers and jewelers quickly displayed interest, but the problem was that tsavorite deposits were small, and Tanzanian laws at the time restricted mineral exports. Bridges and other reputed gem prospectors such as Peter Morgan and John Saul speculated that more tsavorite deposits would be found across the border in Kenya. With intuition and some luck paying off in 1971, Bridges rediscovered tsavorite for the second time within the boundary of Kenya’s fabulous Tsavo Game Reserve.

Prospecting around the same area of the Tsavo Reserve as Bridges, Peter Morgan went on to discover the first substantial tsavorite deposit in the Taita Hills. Straddling the prominent Kide Hill, the Lualenyi Mine produced the first commercial amounts of tsavorite. Under the more laissez-faire and unrestrictive laws of Kenya, mining and exporting commenced and the world began to receive its first taste of this beautifully colored gem.

Ever the creative opportunist with East African gems, Henry Platt of Tiffany & Co., New York, named the brilliant green gemstone "Tsavorite", after the beautiful savannah parklands where it was rediscovered. In 1974 at Platt’s behest, Tiffany’s started a marketing campaign that helped propel tsavorite to the fine jewellery favorite .

With beautiful green hues similar to the very best emeralds, the jewelry world was enamored by tsavorite’s charms. While some 50 deposits have been found in Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar and even Zambia, only a handful of small mines produce commercially viable quantities. Production is highly unpredictable with large crystal sizes seldom being recovered – all helping to add to the gemstone’s cachet as a genuinely rare jewel.

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