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The Lion of Merelani: A Record-Breaking Tsavorite Gem Joins the Smithsonian Collection June 06, 2023 (0 comments)


Washington, DC--The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History recently received a donation of a square cushion-cut, 116.76-carat tsavorite gem named the "Lion of Merelani." The gem was discovered in 2017 in the Merelani mines of northern Tanzania.

[Image via Rapaport]

According to a Rapaport report, the gem's journey begins with Bruce Bridges of Bridges Tsavorite, who purchased it to honor his late father, Campbell Bridges. The elder Bridges was the pioneer who first discovered tsavorite, a unique green gem, in Tanzania in 1967.

The report noted that, with tsavorites exceeding 10 carats considered extremely rare, this sizable gem was a fitting tribute to Campbell's legacy. Bruce Bridges planned to document the cutting process before deciding its final destination.

In the report, Shelly Sergent, curator of the private gem and jewelry collection Somewhere in the Rainbow (SITR), along with SITR's owners, expressed interest in the gem due to their mission of using exceptional pieces to educate and inspire gemological groups and museums.

The report noted that master cutter Victor Tuzlukov was selected to handle the gem cutting. Tuzlukov practiced on two smaller tsavorites to prepare, given the tricky nature of tsavorite roughness.

The "Lion" was completed under the watchful eye of a photo of Campbell Bridges, providing an emotional link to the gem's backstory. The name "Lion of Merelani" combines Campbell's African nickname "Lion" with the gem's place of origin.

Once finished, Smithsonian mineralogist Jeffrey Post, curator-in-charge of gems and minerals, approved its donation to the Smithsonian's Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals.

Learn more in the Rapaport report.

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