By Ashley Bailey
, Sunday, August 06, 2006 12:00 AM
When it was first discovered in East Africa in the late 1960s, tasvorite, a green grossular garnet, was hailed as the most significant new green gem since the first finds of demantoid garnet in Russia a century before. Indeed, some distinguished gemologists were so impressed by this new green glory that they said if it had been discovered before emerald, it would have been preferred to the beryl. That’s the highest praise possible.
The name tsavorite was coined by Tiffany’s president Henry Platt around 1970 to honor the fact that the gem’s principal mining deposits were close to Kenya’s famous Tsavo National Park. Tiffany's diamonds and Tiffany's diamond jewelry had always been the staple of their jewelry stores.
Tiffany’s and green garnet go back a long ways. In the 1870s, the store’s legendary gem buyer George Frederick Kunz had been among the first to buy and publicize demantoid garnet. Naturally, Tiffany’s was the logical candidate to introduce tsavorite.
Without a doubt, the Tiffany’s connection proved of great benefit to tsavorite. The gem was quickly mainstreamed and became a jewelry staple. Then in the 1980's, supplies became a trickle and it was believed that this new garnet species was head for extinction. For more than a decade, stones of 1 carat and more were rarities. And the stones that were available looked too much like peridot to keep this gem’s audience.
But just when the future looked bleakest for tsavorite, important large finds were made in Tanzania and Kenya. Suddenly, larger sizes started appearing on the market, along with stones of fine color.
Now there’s been another first for this garnet.
Until 2000, tsavorite was known as an East African gem, found only in Kenya and Tanzania. That year, however, the first green grossular garnets were found in Madagascar, also. As this gem’s geography broadens, so will supply. That means tsavorite is ready to make a big comeback. It couldn’t happen to a finer gem. As one of the few gems that is not routinely heated to improve its color, tsavorite is one of the few remaining all-natural gems left.
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