Tsavorite Factory Debuts Magenta Garnet from Malawi at 2024 Tucson Gem Shows

By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief

At the September 2023 Jewellery & Gem World Hong Kong show, Daniel Assaf of the Tsavorite Factory learned of a unique opportunity: a new find of Garnet in the African nation of Malawi.

A colleague shared some gems with him courtesy of artisanal miners in the region, located at a site 1.5 hours away from Salima—where miners have been uncovering rhodolite Garnet for some time—and 50 km from Lilongwe, the Malawian capital.

Assaf was not enamored with the initial offerings, which were brownish-pink in color, but as diggers kept at it, they struck some regal magenta-colored material. That find prompted Assaf and his mining partner on the ground, Benjamin Masyuko, to secure environmental surveys and rights to mine and develop the spot, bringing in excavators and front-end loaders for more serious exploration.

New magenta Garnets from Malawi, available from the Tsavorite FactoryPhoto by Jeff Mason Photography
Photo by Jeff Mason Photography

“So far, material has only been found with picks and hammers,” observes Assaf. “It’s found in metamorphic schist.”

To date, much of the available material ranges from 5 mm to 8 mm, cabochon and bead grade down to melee. He’s also gotten some facet-grade stones in sizes up to 6 x 4 ovals, but as they dig further, cleaner material may surface.

“Nothing is coming out in substantial quantities for now, but the story is the color—it’s not the more wine-reddish rhodolite found elsewhere in Malawi, nor is it like the Tanzanian burgundy-color rhodolites that aren’t really coming out anymore. This material has a purple and pink element. Its closest comparable, I think, is the Mahenge Garnet out of Tanzania.”

To get an accurate read on exactly what the material is, more labs must study it. So far, one lab gave him a verbal assessment that it was rhodolite—it has iron in it—so it could be a pyrope almandite, but it could also be a pyrope spessartine, a variety of Malaya Garnet. Assaf suspects it is a fine quality of rhodolite Garnet, “which is a pyrope almandite,” he adds.

New magenta Garnets from Malawi, available from the Tsavorite FactoryPhoto by Jeff Mason Photography
Photo by Jeff Mason Photography

For sure, the labs will have the final say on the exact nature of the magenta-colored Garnet find. Assaf is eager for their assessments. He’s keen for them to compare this Garnet with others, such as material from Salima, Malawi, and purple Garnets from Mozambique. And, as many know, East Africa is rich in special varieties of Garnets. In Winter 2015 Gems & Gemology, GIA reported on a “type of pink pyrope Garnet containing vanadium and chromium, believed to be mined in Tanzania.” And in its Fall 2016 issue, GIA reported on a “Purple pyrope-almandine Garnet from Mozambique.” Of course, there are plenty more finds in the red to pink to purple color families, but Assaf feels his magenta gems might be something special.

“Will they find qualities that are characteristically unique?” Assaf ponders. “When Aquaprase came out, the trade called it Chrysoprase, but after it was sent to the labs for testing, they learned that it did have some distinct properties that were not consistent with Chrysoprase and dubbed it Aquaprase. I feel like this material has a really good luster to it, but it could just be my way of seeing it.”

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