By Vladyslav Y. Yavorskyy
…I remember exactly how and when I fell in love with garnets. It was on my first trip to Tanzania, decades ago. A young backpacker, traveling only with a loupe and camera, my mission was to see and smell the sunrise and sunset of the Serengeti.
A week into the trip the bus driver stopped at Arusha, northern Tanzania. I met some foreigners in a restaurant and struck up a conversation, unaware at the time that we would still be best friends 20 years later. We strolled together through the lanes of Arusha, sharing travel stories and memories, when we stopped by a local gem house. Inside, I saw the most beautiful vivid green tsavorite crystal and was overcome by an instant urge to buy it.
Later on that afternoon, a shepherd entered through the doors of another gem trader’s shop whose hospitality I was enjoying. The fatigued man brought a crystal he had acquired from a savanna tribe. This bright and vivacious stone had an indescribable color, somewhat imperial peachy pink. It was a malaia garnet – the second stone of this luscious family to enter my collection…
Upon my return to the workshop, I began faceting the pieces, only to be astonished even further. Not only were they rich in color, but they had dispersion like colored diamonds. It didn’t take long to find admirers for these two gems and I set off on an quest for more.
Since I already was a big fan and collector of spinels, green and orange were two colors my collection was still missing. I gradually came to own an entire suite of green garnets, from intense emerald greens to the pastel mint shades.
My collection grew to include demantoid garnets from the Ural Mountains, mandarin garnets from Burma, Tanzania and Nigeria, as well as pinkish-red rhodolites from Tanzania.
As of today, some 20 years further along, I feel it is time to share my journey in the footsteps of garnets – photos of stones I bought and cut over the years – along with the people I’ve met along the way in my never ending travels hunting for these rare gems.