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Tsavorite Gemstones - Fine green Tsavolite gems


When considered in terms of geological history, the Tsavorite is a very young gemstone; it has a shiny green sheen, and is found in the East African bush land that lies along the border of Kenya and Tanzania. There are only a few mines which are situated in very harsh and dangerous terrain; this is the home of various dangerous snakes, and predators such a lions can be seen patrolling the land, looking for available prey. It is in the wide Tsavo National Park that the short and fantastic history of this gemstone begins.

The discovery and economic exploitation of tsavorite

The story begins with the British geologist, known as Campbell R. Bridges. In 1967, he was traversing the mountainous regions in the Northern part of Tanzania, looking for gemstones, when he came across some nodules of rocks which looked like potatoes, in a region called Lemshuko, which is located 15 km from the first village called Komolo. Some instinct told him to check what was in the core of these rocks, and he found some green grains of beautiful rock, and crystal fragments. After subjecting the rocks to some geological tests he found out that the rocks that he had found were actually green grossularite, which is said to be a mineral which can only be classified as a gemstone belonging to the colorful species known as garnets; these rocks were only found rarely in these parts of the world. The crystals were found to have great clarity and an intense green color. When the rocks were introduced to the world, gemologists and jewelers took notice of them. Tiffany and Co. based in New York, is one of the first established jewelry designer to take notice of tsavorite.

Due to the political environment in Tanzania at the time, it was not possible to export the gemstones from the country, but this did not discourage Campbell Bridges at all. Geologically, he knew that the rock strata that bore the gemstones could not only be found in this one area, and would have wide extensions below the surface. He believed that the strata in which he found these rocks could not be the only one in this region, and he went on with his search for deposits in other areas.

The belt of rocks in which the lion´s share of gemstones from East Africa are found, are very old, and were formed millions of years ago, while the continental shift was very much apparent. The area in which these gemstones are found, used to lie under the ocean when the stones were being formed. As a result of the movement of the continents, the sedimentary rocks which were found to lie under the ocean were greatly folded and compressed. It is due to this great pressure and temperatures associated with the compression, which led to the formation of wonderful, and fascinating gemstones; one of these gemstones was the tsavorite. However, the same pressure that formed these wonderful stones, was also responsible for crushing them to the extent that you can only find small fragments today. This is why the potato-shaped stones that he found only had shards and grains of this gemstone. However, being a very tenacious person, Campbell persevered and he believed that the belt crossed into Kenya. In 1971, he crossed over into Kenya, and continued looking for this wonderful gemstone; he was lucky enough to find the gemstone, and here, he was able to register the deposit officially, allowing him to exploit the gemstones commercially and export them worldwide.

As mentioned earlier, this was terrain which was not very friendly, and in order to stay away from the lions and other wild animals, Campbell had to live in tree houses; this was truly an adventure in business. The fact that the workers were afraid of snakes worked to his advantage and he placed a python to guard the gemstones from theft by the workers and locals. Even though the find was fantastic, it was not until 1974, when Tiffany and Co. started a nationwide campaign in the United States of America to build up the popularity of the tsavorite, which was very low at the time. It was not long before the gemstone was in demand, and the promotional campaigns were expanded to cover other parts of the world.

Apart from Tanzania and Kenya, tsavorite was also found in small amounts in Toliara, which is a region in Madagascar.

In the year 2009, after a three year dispute over access to the gemstone mines owned by Bridges, and his son, a mob of locals attacked and killed him, on their property, which was in the Tsavo National Park.

Green like a garnet but not classified as one

After geological examination, it was found that the tsavorite, also known as the tsavolite gemstone, was actually a green grossularite, and that it belongs to the group of gemstones with several colors known as the garnets.

There are certain rules that must be followed when naming gemstones. The modern Mineralogical Methods of naming gemstones requires that all gemstones should have "ite" at the end of the name. In order to pay tribute to the Tsavo National Park, where the wonderful green gemstones were found, and the majestic Tsavo River, which flows through these lands, the President of Tiffany & Co, who went by the name of Henry Platt, and who was at the forefront in the development of the gemstone, economically, decided that the gemstone should be aptly named tsavorite; the name tsavolite was also used in some countries. Both names refer to the same gemstone, but the latter one has the lite suffix at the end, which is a Greek term for stone.

The young stone that quickly rose to fame

One would wonder how such a relatively young gemstone could become so famous within a short period of time. One thing that sets this stone above others is the fact that it has a vivid green color, which is similar to that seen in emeralds. The colors are found to be deep forest green, intensely blue-green, or light green like the greenery that you see during the spring season. These are colors that are said to have in invigorating and refreshing effect on the human senses and this is why it became so popular in a short while. Apart from the green color, the gemstone also has a very high brilliance. Like any other garnet, it has a high refractive index of 1.734/44, which is the reason why the stone is so sparkly. The garnet, as was said in the olden days, is a very difficult stone to hide, and in brilliant light, it can even be seen even when hidden under clothing; if you put a stone in your pocket, it could easily be picked out in bright light.

The treatment of tsavorite gemstones

This is a gemstone that does not need any enhancing through any form of treatment. You do not subject tsavorite to heat treatment or oiling; this is a gemstone that follows in the inherent properties of all garnets. These are stones that are a symbol of pure and unadulterated natural beauty.

When it comes to hardness, the tsavorite has a value of about 7.5 on the Mohs scale, and this is said to be as hard as an emerald. However, even if they have a similar hardness to emeralds, they are not as brittle and can withstand harsher treatment. This means that when you wear a tsavorite, you do not have to worry that an incautious movement will shatter the stone, and even a cutter will not have to be very cautious when cutting the stone and setting it in the base of the jewelry. A tsavorite is well suited for what is called invisible setting. This is a technique where the gemstones are placed very close to one another, and one cannot see the setting which is below it. The sensitive emerald cannot be set in this way since the gemstone would break when the two adjacent pieces knock into one another when subjected to a hard jar. The intense brilliance of the tsavorite has made it quite popular as an accompanying gemstone to match the classic gemstones, such as rubies emeralds, sapphires and diamonds.

When it comes to carat weights, the tsavorite is rarely found in sizes that go above 5 carats. With such a small raw gemstone size, you can hardly find a cut stone that weighs more than 2 carats. However the brilliance of the stone cannot be outshone even when in these small sizes. This is a young gemstone that can be said to have a long history, given its rise to stardom. The great green and intense colors, the hardness, which makes it very wearable, the fantastic brilliance of the stone, and the fact that it is relatively low in cost, makes it one of the most popular gemstones in the world. It is worthy to mention that the brilliant green colors are due to trace elements of vanadium and chromium in the calcium-aluminum garnet stone.

However, despite the fact that it is commonly found in low carat weights, there have been large crystals found. A 925 carat crystal was discovered in 2006, and it was used to design and oval, mixed-cut gemstone, that had a weight of 325 carats; this is the largest tsavorite gemstone ever. It is also said to have the largest number if facets ever cut unto a tsavorite gemstone. Another crystal was also discovered in the same year, which gave birth to a 120.68 carat gemstone, which also had a mixed cut facet design.

It has been said that the natural green colors of the tsavorite serve as a soothing balm to the heart and brings about warmth to the persona; it is also said to help in booting the immune capabilities of the body. There are locals who also believe that the tsavorite can also be used as a mild analgesic, and can help in relieving problems associated with poor eyesight.

In Kenya, the sources of tsavorite are quickly becoming depleted, and there are reports which say that in the last 10 years, the yields have gone down by as much as 80 percent in some places. However, in 1991, there was a new deposit which was found in Madagascar, and this may alleviate the fears that many tsavorite enthusiasts have been facing. Although the stones found in Madagascar have a smaller carat weight, they still have the magnificence of the stones which were mined in Kenya. If you love brilliant green jewelry, then you should choose the tsavorite, if you cannot afford the pricier emerald gemstones. This would be the perfect stone for you to give to your sweetheart, without having to clean out your bank account.

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