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Tsavorite isn’t a well-known gemstone, but it’s gaining popularity. This green gemstone features high refractive index and dispersion levels that translate into mesmerizing brilliance and has fewer inclusions than emeralds. Tsavorite’s stunning, pure green hues, durability, purity, and rareness attract jewelry lovers.
Many people get emeralds and tsavorite confused based on their green color. However, Tsavorites are a rare, green variety of grossular garnet. Tsavorites are four times more rare than emeralds but cost less because they’re not as well known.
Before we dive into the color details, this gemstone’s origin is important to know. British geologist Campbell R. Bridges discovered Tsavorite in 1967. It was named by Harry Platt of Tiffany & Company (New York) who recognized its potential due to its gemological value. Platt named it after the Tsavo Game Reserve in Kenya where the stone was discovered. Today Tsavorite is found in both Tanzania and Kenya, but the finest quality Tsavorite, with pure green hues, is only found in Tsavo, Kenya.
Gemstone colors typically get graded based on three factors: hue, tone, and saturation. Hue refers to the gradation of the color ( for example, dark or pale). Tone is the degree of absorption and reflection of light (for example, tones can range from black to clear), and it is a major determinant of the intensity of color. Finally, saturation refers to how much of the gemstone’s color includes the primary color. For Tsavorite, it’s the saturation of green.
The color range of Tsavorite varies from spring-like light green to an intensely bluish green or deep forest green. The unusual green color of Tsavorite is caused by the presence of chromium and vanadium. The most sought-after color is an emerald green and should be as intense as possible without being too dark or yellow green.
Before we discuss garnet color variations, it’s helpful to know that there are two groups of garnets: garnets of calcium and garnets of magnesium. Within these two groups, there are six different types: almandine, pyrope, spessartite, grossular, andradite, and uvarovite. Each of these types is known for having a unique color.
Tsavorites are known for their dense, saturated green hues. Hue is the stone’s color on the color wheel spectrum–a visual representation of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. The most basic primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Other colors form when looking at intermediary colors between secondary colors like green, which is Tsavorite’s hue.
Saturation can also be defined as the richness of the color. Saturation in the intensity of the Tsavorite’s green color. Highly saturated colors attract people, so a vivid green Tsavorite is ideal.
The tone is the amount of color in a Tsavorite. Too much color and the stone can appear dark, opaque, and lifeless. Too little color and the Tsavorite appears pale, flat, and glassy. A medium tone in the 5 to 6 range is the most desirable because it's the best balance of color and allows the sparkle of the Tsavorite to come through. The right balance of tone and saturation is what really makes for a beautiful vivid Tsavorite.
While color is an important aspect of gemstone quality, the transparency of Tsavorite is also an important factor in determining its value. Tsavorite is transparent to opaque with a glass-like luster. It features a high refractive index that gives it a good level of brilliance.
Regarding inclusions, Tsavorite is classed as a Type 2 gemstone by the GIA and is grouped among stones classified as "usually included." In other words, because of Tsavorite's geology, a majority of the stones have some inclusions. The most valuable Tsavorite gemstones should be eye-clean, meaning that no inclusions can be seen with the naked eye. If the stone has too many inclusions, it can make the stone look more opaque and dark.
In case you’re curious, VVS is the top grade in GIA’s colored stone clarity grading system for Tsavorite, and VVS stands for Very very slightly included. While some VVS Tsavorites are flawless (aka eye clean), they are graded as VVS based on the stone’s geology. In comparison, in the GIA Diamond grading system they would be awarded a Flawless or Internally Flawless grade.
Tsavorite does not require treatment or enhancements, which adds to this stone’s uniqueness. Not many stones do not receive treatment of any kind. In addition, you can’t find a synthetic version of Tsavorite because it has complex chemical and physical properties that make it difficult to replicate in a lab.
It is very rare! In fact, Tsavorite is 1000 times more rare than emerald. Tsavorite is so rare, in fact, that gems over 5 carats are almost unheard of, and gemologists believe it may become near-extinct before long. Stones over 2.5 carats are very rare and valuable.
Both emeralds and Tsavorite look beautiful with their intense green hue. Some say Tsavorites surpass emeralds in transparency and brilliance, or how much light is reflected from its interior. Tsavorites look stunning in all types of fine jewelry, including rings.
One common way to determine if your Tsavorite is a fake is to put it under the microscope. Place the stone under a bright light and look at it through a microscope or a 10x jeweler's loupe. If you see any bubbles within the gem, it is likely a fake.
Without a doubt, emeralds are one of the most precious and most sought after gems in the world. Both emeralds and Tsavorites are stunning green gems, but Tsavorites are four times rarer than emeralds but also cost less because they’re not as well known.