Tsavorite – The World’s Rarest Garnet

by Lapigems Gem Company 13. January 2015 22:54

 This month we focus on Tsavorite; a relatively new gemstone in terms of market exposure, but with an extremely old geological history. The rocks in which  Tsavorite formed were first laid down over 2 billion years ago, thus making it older than Mt.Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.

 The beautiful garnets’ home is the East African bush-land along the Kenya-Tanzania border in an area of barren, lion infested, and raw wilderness.  This  region has a history of volcanic activity and due to the volatile geological conditions under which it forms.

 Tsavorite was discovered by British geologist Campbell R. Bridges in 1967 in Tanzania and, about three years later, in Kenya. It was named by Harry Platt  of Tiffany & Co (New York) after the Tsavo game reserve in Kenya.  Indeed to this day, even though Tsavorites are found in other locations including  Tanzania, the very finest Tsavorite with the purest green hues are still only found in the Tsavo District of Kenya.

 Tsavorite is only found in relatively small sizes. Stones over 2.5 carats are considered very rare and valuable. The Smithsonian Gem Collection’s prize  piece is just 7 carats. The largest, cleanest Tsavorite on record is a 325.14-carat top-color beauty found near the Block B Tanzanite mines near Arusha,  Tanzania. It valued at over $2 million.

 Out of the two green varieties of garnets, i.e. Tsavorite and Emerald; Tsavorite is arguably the more important. Tsavorite brings greater competition  especially since it is less included, rarely treated and is more durable.  Emerald on the other hand is routinely oiled and glass filled.

 Tsavorite has earned its place as one of the world’s finest colored gemstones. Its high refractive index and dispersion levels translate into wonderful  brilliance; its durability and purity of its hues have attracted collectors and jewelry lovers alike. The romance of its origins and the fact that it formed even  before dinosaurs trod the earth make it a unique and exciting gemstone.


Tsavorite Mining - A Renaissance?

by Lapigems Gem Company 6. February 2012 04:50

This entry is a discussion of  Dr Cedric Simonet’s recent article in the ICA Quarterly “In Color”. The article, entitled “Potential for Modernization of Small Scale Gemstone Miners – the Case of the Tsavorite Mines in Southeast Kenya” is republished in part in our Article Center with kind permission of Dr Cedric Simonet. The full article can be read on the ICA website. The extract can be read in our Article Center - Tsavorite article.

Dr Simonet’s article is enlightening as to the current state of mining extraction methods here in Kenya and also highlights the reason for Tsavorite’s hereunto limited penetration of the jewelry market despite its superb qualities as a gemstone, namely low production.

Two factors could change the status quo and propel Tsavorite forward to its rightful place as the premier green gemstone. The first is the entry of a large scale miner into the fray, bringing with it the ability to extract larger quantities of the stone annually. The second is the modernization of the many existing small scale miners to make their activities more productive. The combined effect would be to increase the supply to a hungry market and to stabilize supply. These are the 2 limiting factors currently restricting the gemstone at present.

There is some evidence that both these things are starting to happen. Tanzanite One, the largest and most sophisticated miner of Tanzanite has recently incorporated Tsavorite One as a subsidiary and has purchased the rights to a large part of the Tanzanian based Tsavorite reef. Secondly, via various bodies, including the Kenya chamber of Mines and governmental efforts, progress is being made towards providing small scale miners with the ability to obtain low interest loans to invest in machinery, coupled with further education in mining methods. This is very much in its infancy now but the signs are very encouraging. Tsavorite lovers and investors watch this space!

Lapigems Gem Company


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TanzaniteOne begins Mining of Tsavorite

by Lapigems Gem Company 20. September 2010 03:21
The largest Tanzanite miner TanzaniteOne has begun mining Tsavorite. Could this mean a market rennaissance for the green gem?


Tsavorite has always mesmerized its beholder, ever since it was discovered in the late 1960’s. It holds all the attributes of a world class gemstone and gemologically it compares very favorably to its green counterpart, Emerald. It is brighter, due to a high Refractive Index (1.74) in contrast to Emerald’s relatively sleepy appearance as a result of a lower RI (1.58). It has double the dispersion of Emerald and is rarer.

However, it has not had the meteoric rise in the marketplace’s affections that Tanzanite has. Principally, this is due to the fact that Tsavorite is rarely found in fine qualities, especially in larger sizes. Even fine 2 carat pieces are difficult to get. This has made it a difficult gemstone to promote in the market. Jewelers want to be able to source a stone for a client if they suggest it. Hence, Emerald, being more available and plentiful in the market has always been a better choice as a green gemstone for a jeweler trying to make a sale.

The price of fine Tsavorite is approximately a quarter of fine Emerald. This premium is mostly as a result of Emerald’s cache – the fact that it has been known to man for hundreds of years and its name evokes certain preconceived values. Tsavorite, being rarer was only discovered less than half a century ago and doesn’t have this advantage. Similarly, its penetration into the marketplace was severely hampered by the very rarity that makes it so desireable as it was little known to the public. Obviously, this situation has changed much over the years and Tsavorite is much better recognized now, but its rarity is still holding it back in terms of achieving its full potential.


The above graph, sourced from JCK Magazine illustrates the situation. On all counts, except public awareness and current price, Tsavorite outdoes Emerald. As anyone conversant with basic economic theory will attest, public awareness affects demand which directly affects price. Hence, Tsavorite’s price point could be very positively affected by an increase in public awareness.

This may be about to happen. TanzaniteOne – the largest Tanzanite Miner and marketer has recently begun a large Tsavorite mining project in Tanzania. Under the name TsavoriteOne Mining Ltd, they have bought up mining concessions from Kirkwood Resources and Green Hill Mining Ltd and combined them to make the largest Tsavorite mine, with a licence area covering 100 square kilometers. With plans to invest heavily in the mining and marketing of the gemstone, TsavoriteOne has the ability to remove this last impediment to Tsavorite’s accession in the marketplace and make the gem more available. Public exposure to Tsavorite is about to increase hugely. With public exposure comes an increase in demand which could lead to an increase in price. Tsavorite lovers and investors may want to watch this development with interest.

How does this affect Lapigems?

Tanzanite One has clearly followed the established De Beers business model to date and there is no reason to suggest that their foray into Tsavorite mining and marketing will be any different. This model is a classic "pull marketing" approach where demand is created in the consumer market by huge publicity and promotion and the creation of a cache for the gem. The "Be Born to Tanzanite" campaign that sought to make Tanzanite the gem to buy at the birth of your first child is a classic duplication of De Beers' very successful drive to make Diamonds synonymous with engagements, hence creating an enduring and profoundly deep market for the gem. A similar approach can be expected for Tsavorite, thus creating the cache that Tsavorite lacks in the marketplace and removing Emerald's last trump card over it.

For a specialist company like Lapigems, this is an exciting development. We are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this for the benefit of our worldwide clientele. Tsavorite One only controls a very small proportion of the total Tsavorite mining area, and Lapigems has close relationships with the other small scale miners in the region, meaning our ability to source the very finest Tsavorites will remain unhampered but the stone's overall popularity is set to soar. Additionally, the Tanzanian deposits generally produce a lighter color with a strong yellow modifer, whereas the original Kenyan deposits in Tsavo produce a more pure green, meaning a higher percentage of the very finest stones will still remain on this side of the border. 

Further Reading on this Topic

Mining Weekly Article
Tsavorite One Press Release   

Lapigems Gem Company

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