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Record Setting 116 carat Tsavorite Unveiled at Smithsonian

Last week the “Lion of Merelani,” a spectacular 116.76 carat tsavorite garnet, was unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. This exquisite gemstone has been recorded as the largest tsavorite ever cut in the United States and the largest precision-cut tsavorite in the world.

116 carat Lion of Merelani tsavorite
Credit: Michael E. Ruan/The Washington Post

283 carat rough crystal

Tsavorite is an exceedingly rare variety of garnet found predominantly in regions at the border of Kenya and Tanzania. Victor Tuzlukov, the famous gem cutter, fashioned the rough stone into the 116.76 carat Lion of Merelani, which boasts a total of 177 facets. The original rough tsavorite crystal, discovered near Merelani in Tanzania in 2017, weighed a remarkable 283 carats.

rough tsavorite crystal
Credit: Jeff Scovil, courtesy of Bridges Tsavorite

“An exciting addition”

The Smithsonian’s gem-collection team examined the stone up close at the 2020 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show and were astonished by its unprecedented size and quality. According to mineralogist Jeffrey Post, the museum’s curator-in-charge of gems and minerals:

This tsavorite is truly one of the most important colored gemstones to have been mined this decade. A gem like this is one of Earth’s natural treasures and is an exciting addition to the National Gem Collection and to our public exhibition.

Faceted tsavorites over 10 carats are rare, and the 116 carat Lion of Merelani is more than 100 carats heavier than the National Gem Collection’s current largest tsavorite jewel.

116 carat Lion of Merelani tsavorite
Jeffrey Post | Credit: Jack Tamisiea, NMNH

Honoring Campbell Bridges

The gem is a gift to the National Gem Collection from Somewhere in the Rainbow, a privately owned gem and jewelry collection that works to preserve the rarity and beauty of the world’s finest colored gems. The stone is also a gift from Bruce Bridges, the CEO of the Bridges Tsavorite mining company, which specializes in sustainably excavating gems in Eastern Africa. The Lion of Merelani honors his father, Campbell Bridges, the famed geologist who discovered tsavorite in Tanzania in 1967.

The Lion of Merelani will be displayed in the museum’s Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals, alongside other treasures from the National Gem Collection.

According to Jeff Post:

We are confident that this great tsavorite will quickly become a visitor favorite, for its beauty and its well-documented story. It will be the iconic garnet in the National Gem Collection, the one that all other tsavorites will be compared to in the future.

116 carat Lion of Merelani tsavorite
Credit: Jeff Scovil and Robert Weldon

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