Tsavorite Garnet Gemstone Information

Tsavorite Garnet was first discovered in Tsavo national park near the border between Kenya and Tanzania.  A member of the garnet group, the species is grossularite and the variety is tsavorite. The lighter green tones are known as grossularite while the medium to darker greens are referred to as tsavorite.

The prices and value of Tsavorite Garnet vary depending on the size and quality of the gemstone.  The saturated chrome green in a medium to dark tone is the most valuable. Most tsavorite have inclusions, so clean stones are especially valuable. Tsavorite are mainly found in small sizes, so fine specimens over 2 carats count as rare, and stones over 4 carats count as very rare.
Why Buy Loose Gemstones Instead of Pre-Set Jewelry?
There are many reasons, but basically it comes down to value and choice...

When buying your gemstones loose instead of a pre-set stone, you can be sure you are getting the best value for your money.  Loose gemstones are less expensive, a better value, and you can really see what you are paying for.  The most important part of getting the right price and finding the best value is to first see what you're getting.  A jewelry setting will hide the inclusions inside a gem, and can deepen or brighten its color.  With a loose stone you can much more easily inspect the gem and see it for what it really is.  In this way you can get a better idea of its true worth and be sure you are paying a fair price.

The second advantage of buying a loose gemstone is choice.  You are free to pick the exact color, cut, shape and variety of the stone for the setting of your dreams, be it yellow gold, white gold, platinum or silver; prong set or bezel set with diamond accents.  You can experience the joy of creating your very own, one-of-a-kind jewelry design. Choose from a variety of jewelry settings and styles to create a completely original presentation that will perfectly suit your individual gemstone and will be as unique as you are!

                          Tsavorite garnet ring                        



Origin Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.
Color Green, Dark Green, Light to Medium Green, loose Tsavorite garnet gemstones come in all shades of green.
Refractive Index 1.735 (+.015, -.035)
Chemical Composition  Ca3Al2(SiO4)3
Hardness 7 - 7.5
Density 3.61(-.27, +.12)
Crystal Structure Cubic

There are two main theoretical groups or "families" of garnet:- pyrope, almandite, spessartite, which are all aluminium silicates, and uvarovite, grossularite, andradite, which are all calcium silicates. In practice, there are probably very few garnets with the precise pure chemical composition shown for their type, almost all garnets are of mixed types, where one type is partially replaced by another type.

Garnets as a group are relatively common in highly metamorphosed rocks and in some igneous formations. They form under the high temperatures and/or pressures that those types of rocks must endure. Garnets can be used by geologists as a gauge of how much temperature and pressure the rock has endured. Garnets are greatly variable in colors and varieties, though, and many of these are both rare and beautiful, producing genuinely precious gemstones. Some garnets are truly unique in the mineral kingdom and have much to offer as both gemstones and mineral specimens.

The general formula for most of the garnets is A3B2(SiO4)3. The A represents divalent metals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and/or manganese. The B represents trivalent metals such as aluminum, chromium, iron and/or manganese and in the rarer garnets; vanadium, titanium, zirconium and/or silicon. The general formula for a couple of rarer garnets (hibschite and katoite) is A3B2(SiO4)3-X(OH)4X. The main differences in physical properties among the members of the garnet group are slight variations in color, density and index of refraction.  The refractive index (RI), measured using a refractometer, is an indication of the amount light rays are bent by a mineral.  Birefringence is the difference between the minimum and maximum RI. When birefringence is high, light rays reflect off different parts of the back of a stone causing an apparent doubling of the back facets when viewed through the front facet.

Most gems have a crystalline structure. Crystals have planes of symmetry and are divided into seven symmetry systems. The number of axes, their length, and their angle to each other determine the system to which a crystal belongs.  Garnets are isostructural, meaning that they share the same crystal structure. This leads to similar crystal shapes and properties. Garnets belong to the isometric crystal class, which produces very symmetrical, cube-based crystals. The most common crystal shape for garnets however is the rhombic dodecahedron, a twelve sided crystal with diamond-shaped (rhombic) faces. This basic shape is the trademark of garnets, for no other crystal shape is so closely associated with a single mineral group like the rhombic dodecahedron is with garnets.

Most garnets are red in color, leading to the erroneous belief that all garnets are red. In fact a few varieties, such as grossular, can have a wide range of colors, and uvarovite is always a bright green. As a mineral specimen, garnets usually have well shaped and complex crystals and their color and luster can make for a very beautiful addition to a collection.


Tsavorite                               Forest Green Tsavorite Garnet

Why is it called Tsavorite?

Modern mineralogical nomenclature demands that gemstones are given a name ending in "ite". To honor the Tsavo National Game Park and the Tsavo river running through this area, Henry Platt, the former president of Tiffany & Co, who accompanied the gemstones rise to popularity, had suggested the name Tsavorite. Sometimes, Tzavolith is used but both denote the same stone. The ending "lith" is simply the Greek word for "stone".

Why are Tsavorite so desirable?

First of all there is its vividly brilliant green color, the green colors found in Tsavorite garnet are beautiful and highly desirable.  Another positive characteristic is its durability. Although showing a hardness similar to Emerald, 7.5 on the Mohs' Scale, it is far less sensitive in its handling. This is not only important for cutting and setting the stone but also for wearing. Tsavorite is less likely to become damaged or to chip even as consequence of an abrupt impact. It is even excellently suited for "invisible setting", where stones are set closely joined, and which cannot be recommended for Emeralds. The gemstone is also coveted because of its high brilliance. Like all other Garnets it enjoys an especially high light refraction index (1.734/ 44).  Not without reason, did old legends claim that garnets were difficult to hide. Their sparkling light was reported to be visible even through clothes.  Due to its high brilliance, Tsavorite is an equal match for the classical stones like Diamond, Ruby an Sapphire.


The color scale shown by Tsavorite ranges from spring-like light green to an intensely bluish green or deep forest green. The attractive green color of Tsavorite is caused by the presence of chromium and vanadium. Only occasionally a rough crystal of over 5 carats is found, so cut Tsavorites are quite rare and valuable starting from sizes of 2 carats and up.  But the brilliance and luminosity of the stone are displayed even in smaller sizes.


Tsavorite Garnets are generally cut similar to other colored stones, with ovals and cushions being the most common shapes.  Other popular Tsavorite shapes include rounds, marquises, trillions, emerald cuts, briolettes, hearts and pears.  cabochon cut Tsavorite garnets are not often found. The lack of pleochroism in garnet gemstones means that orientation is not a problem and the equidimensional shape of the rough generally provides good yields from rough to cut.


Tsavorite is one of the rare colored gemstones that is not normally subject to any type of treatment or enhancement.


Tsavorite comes from the East African bush: all the mines currently producing are in an arid grassy area with bare dry hills that runs across the border from south-eastern Kenya to north-eastern Tanzania.  Hundreds of millions of years ago, this land was covered by the ocean. Layers of organic sediment were deposited, eventually forming shale. Then the land was subjected to intense heat and pressure, folding and uplifting, metamorphically changing the ocean floor into new minerals. This twisting and torturing of the rocks gave birth to the unusual gemstones of East Africa, many colored by the vanadium which is plentiful in these rocks because of their organic history in the ocean floor.

The geology which produces tsavorite is graphitic gneisses, rich in calcium from the seams of marble which lace through them. Tsavorite is often found in pods with a coating of quartz or scapolite, which the miners call potatoes. The green color is most often due to vanadium from the host rock but some tsavorite is also colored by chromium.

The heat and folding of the rock hundreds of millions of years ago which formed tsavorite also shattered most of the crystals. It is very rare to find tsavorite in sizes larger than five carats, and most faceted stones are below two carats. Many deposits of tsavorite are small and unpredictable: seams suddenly narrow and disappear, giving no indication where to look next. There have been perhaps 40 different areas where tsavorite has been mined but only four mining ventures are still producing in commercial quantities.

The Scorpion Mine in southeast Kenya is now producing from tunnels sunk on an incline for more than 200 feet. The other major producer in this area has a large open-cast operation to a depth of 40 feet which has yielded a considerable quantity of tsavorite. Unfortunately, the owners are unable to continue mining by this method and are beginning to introduce underground mining.

Several years ago, a new tsavorite-producing area was discovered in Lokirima, about a thousand kilometers northwest of the previously known localities. Although this locality is only producing a small quantity, it is promising that the possibility of finding tsavorite exists over a wider area than previously thought.


Garnets have been known to Man for thousands of years. Noah, it is said, used a finely cut, glowing garnet within a lantern to help him steer his ark through the dark night.

Many an early explorer and traveler liked to carry a garnet with him, for the garnet was popular as a talisman and protective stone, as it was believed to light up the night and protect its bearer from evil and disaster.

The name “garnet” comes from the Latin word “Garanatus,” meaning “seedlike,” in reference to a pomegranate. This reference makes sense as small garnets look like the bright red seeds you find inside in a pomegranate.

In medieval times, garnets were thought to cure depression, protect against bad dreams, and relieve diseases of the liver, as well as hemorrhages.

Hebrew writers include the garnet as one of the twelve gems in Aaron’s breastplate.

Christian tradition considered the blood-red garnet as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice.

The Koran holds that the garnet illuminates the Fourth Heaven of the Moslems.

The Greeks said garnet guarded children from drowning. It was also thought to be potent against poisons.

Garnets were found as beads in a necklace worn by a young man in a grave that dates back to 3000 B.C. This is proof of the hardness and durability of the stone.

Plato had his portrait engraved on a garnet by a Roman engraver.

Garnet is the Birthstone for the month of January and the stone that celebrates the 2nd anniversary of marriage.


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