How Kenya is missing out on billions as mines of precious Tsavorite which fetches as much as $8,000 per carat lay idle

Due to its rarity combined with effective marketing tactics, the stone has become one of the most popular and expensive Garnets in the world.

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  • Named after Tsavo national game reserve, a wildlife reserve in the African Serengeti, Tsavorite is among the most expensive of all garnets, with prices similar to those fetched by fine demantoid.
  • The gemstone was first discovered in Tanzania in 1967 and was subsequently found in the same geological formation formation across the border in Kenya in 1970 near Tsavo National Park.
  • Tsavorite has features that surpass and rival those of the emerald, the most famous and valuable green gemstone available which comes in the green variety of Beryl.

Named after Tsavo national game reserve, a wildlife reserve in the African Serengeti, Tsavorite is among the most expensive of all garnets, with prices similar to those fetched by fine demantoid (the other green garnet).

Prices for Tsavorite vary greatly according to size and quality but at the top retail end, they may fetch as much as US$8,000 per carat.

Due to its rarity combined with effective marketing tactics, Tsavorite has become one of the most popular and expensive Garnets in the world.

The gemstone was first discovered in Tanzania in 1967 and was subsequently found in the same geological formation formation across the border in Kenya in 1970 near Tsavo National Park, and subsequently named after the national park.

The two primary deposits of Tsavorite are found at the Scorpion Mine in Taita, near the Tsavo National Park, Kenya; and in the Merelani Hills, Arusha Region, Tanzania. Tsavorite was also discovered in Tuléar Province, Madagascar, in 1991.

Across the border in Tanzania, the first of a series of gem mines was discovered in 1967. Ruby was found in the Matabatu Hills; gem zoisite (tanzanite) appeared near the Usumburu Mountains and chrysoprase on Hanety Hill. (garnets, rubies, and sapphires were screened from gravels in the Umba River.

Quantities of grossular garnets of every shade of yellow, green, tan, and brown were also found in Lala Taima.

In Kenya, miners like John Saul and Peter Morgan became convinced that gemstone occurrences were not necessarily confined to the Tanzanian side of the border and embarked on a ‘Tsavorite rush’ filled with extraordinary successes as well as inordinate degrees of intrigue that dogged his venture and even saw him fall out with Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta.

Tsavorite was named by both Campbell Bridges, the discoverer of Tsavorite, and by Henry Platt, the president of Tiffany & Co. (one of the world's largest jewelry companies).

Tsavorite has features that surpass and rival those of the emerald, the most famous and valuable green gemstone available which comes in the green variety of Beryl. Unlike Emerald, Tsavorite often exhibits far fewer inclusions and on occasion can be flawless.

Tsavorite has a much higher index of refraction, which results in superior brilliance, tends to greater transparency, and occurs with fewer inclusions.

Green grossular is extremely rare, and fine stones of over 5 carats are considered collector’s items.

The best Tsavorite color is a deep emerald green; lighter tones and yellowish hues are less desirable. The green coloring is caused by trace amounts of the elements chromium or vanadium in its chemical structure.

Tsavorite is usually fluorescent a light cream-yellow colour in ultraviolet light.

What is even more fascinating about this gemstone is the fact that it is one of the few colored gems that is not normally subject to any type of enhancement and their colors are always natural.

However, decades of under funding, weak and sometimes non-exitent policies to utter disregard of the sector by the government has seen the mining industry contribution to Kenya's Gross Domestic Product remained at less than one per cent.

Chief among the culprits of the mining woes is provisions of the Mining Act 2016 that miners say continue to derail the sector as it is not conducive to doing business in the country.

“The mining sector in Kenya is not attracting investors because of inherent risks and uncertainties brought about by ambiguous clauses in the Mining Act,” said Kenya Chamber of Mines chief executive Moses Njeru.

According to section 38 (1) of the Act, the government is prohibited from issuing prospecting and mining rights on community land without the direct consent of the community, despite the Act stipulating that every mineral is the property of Kenya and is vested in the national government in trust for the people of Kenya.

As a result, the country is losing out on billions as it is nearly impossible for investors to get consent from communities.

Currently, only Base Titanium has a strong footing in Kenya, having operated in the country for years mining titanium in Kwale.

In recent years, East African governments have undertaken wide-ranging reforms of mining laws led by Tanzania in a bid to ensure they become the primary beneficiaries of mineral resources even as they seek to attract foreign investors.

The sector contributes 4 per cent to Tanzania’s GDP, 1.2 per cent to Rwanda’s, one per cent in Kenya and 0.5 per cent in Uganda.

Uses

Tsavorite makes a fine rare green gemstone, and is used in various forms of jewelry, especially in rings, earrings, and pendants.

In terms of clarity, Tsavorite is relatively clean. Thus when buying one should expect eye-clean or near-eye-clean stones.

In the market, Tsavorites are found in a variety of shapes and cutting styles. Ovals and cushions are the most common, but rounds are also seen, as are other shapes, such as emerald cuts, trillions, etc. Cabochon-cut Tsavorites are not often seen.

The largest known faceted green grossulars, reported to weigh more than 30 carats, are usually flawed and therefore are not too attractive. The largest fine quality stone known is a nearly flawless 16.67-carat emerald-cut stone in Richard Webster’s collection.

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