Tsavorite, aptly described by the man who first brought it into the limelight, is a “magnificent, fiery green gemstone”. Amazingly however, it remains one of the most under-appreciated of all gems. It rivals, and very often triumphs over emerald, its famed green competitor. So why then is it emerald and not tsavorite sitting among the pantheon of gemstone greats? The only explanation can be its limited, albeit illustrious, history.
Tsavorite is a species of green garnet known as grossularite. It became known to the larger world only in the 1960’s when Campbell Bridges happened upon the exceptional, bright green stone while on an expedition in search of other minerals in Tanzania. Exporting stones from Tanzania was difficult at the time, but the vein was traced into Kenya where it could be registered, mined and exported. The exquisite gems caught the imagination of Henry Platt, then head of Tiffany & Co, a company with a long history of promoting new and spectacular gemstones, who named the stone after Tsavo, the famous National Park, on the border of Tanzania and Kenya.
It may seem then that this is a new stone without a history. But of course this is not accurate. Its geological formation didn’t happen suddenly in the early sixties. Tsavorite has been in existence for millions of years. But where rubies, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds have sparkled from the pages of history, tsavorite has not. Could this simply be that the Masaï and other peoples of the area have no written tradition? As historians are beginning to accept, this does not mean that they have no past. Could stories of intensely sparkling green stones, wrapped in cloth and carried as amulets one day be found in the folk traditions?
(This is a fragment of the chapter. Read the whole story in your new copy!)