On Thursday, April 20, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, will unveil the “Lion of Merelani,” a superb 116.76-carat electric green tsavorite garnet.
Unearthed in 2017 by Bridges Tsavorite mining company near Merelani, a gem-rich region straddling the border of Kenya and Tanzania, the gem weighed more than 283 carats in its rough form.
The following year, the mining company recruited world-renowned gem cutter Victor Tuzlukov to shape the rough stone into the 177-facet Lion of Merelani, the world’s largest cushion-cut tsavorite.
“This tsavorite is truly one of the most important colored gemstones to have been mined this decade,” said mineralogist Jeffrey Post, the Smithsonian’s curator-in-charge of gems and minerals. “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.”
Post and the rest of the Smithsonian’s gem-collection team examined the stone up close at the 2020 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show and were reportedly astonished by its unprecedented size and quality.
According to Post, faceted tsavorites weighing more than 10 carats are rare. The Lion of Merelani is more than 100 carats heavier than the current largest tsavorite in the National Gem Collection.
According to the Smithsonian, the Lion of Merelani is the largest precision-cut tsavorite in the world. It’s also the largest tsavorite gem ever cut in the United States.
The impressive tsavorite was gifted to the National Gem Collection from Somewhere in the Rainbow, a privately owned gem and jewelry collection. Somewhere in the Rainbow works with gemologists, gallery owners, museums and jewelry designers to preserve the rarity and beauty of the finest colored gems in the world.
It is also a gift from Bruce Bridges, the CEO of the Bridges Tsavorite mining company. The Lion of Merelani honors Bruce’s father, the late Campbell Bridges, the famed geologist credited with discovering tsavorite in Tanzania in 1967.
“We are confident that this great tsavorite will quickly become a visitor favorite, for its beauty and its well-documented story,” Post said. “It will be the iconic garnet in the National Gem Collection, the one that all other tsavorites will be compared to in the future.”
As of Thursday, the Lion of Merelani will settle into its permanent residence at the museum’s Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals.
Credit: Photo by Jeff Scovil, courtesy of Bridges Tsavorite.