Review: Bruce Bridges (My “Relationship” Ring – Part 2)

Review continued from Part 1: Back Story… 

Part 2 – Center Stone: Tsavorite from Bruce Bridges of


Let’s start with – why Tsavorites?

Subjectively, because green is awesome. To me, it looks like life, like health, the color that goes with practically everything – duh, just take a look out the window (we live in suburbia, and being in the midst of trees was a priority easily fulfilled when apartment hunting).

Objectively, because tsavorite is a great stone of choice for a frequent/daily wear. Garnet is a fairly abundant stone, fairly sturdy and typically clear. No garnet treatments have been invented at this point, which means that it’s one of the widely available gemstones that is not enhanced before it gets to the customer. Fun facts about tsavorite, taken from (either directly or paraphrased):

Tsavorite is “green grossularite, which is the calcium rich member of the Garnet family. Chemically, this gemstone is a calcium aluminium silicate coloured by traces of chromium and/or vanadium oxide. If there is a yellowish hue to the green, this would indicate the presence of iron oxide.”

Refractive index of Tsavorite is 1.74 (compares higher to that of emerald at 1.57). Dispersion of Tsavorite is 0.028 (double that of emerald, which is 0.014). Tsavorite hardness is “7.25 to 7.5 on Moh’s Scale”.

Monetarily, tsavorite is more affordable than alternatives I was open to consider: blue sapphires (high demand, rare in good quality and untreated), green tourmalines (difficult to find bright stones, otherwise might actually be more economic than tsavorite), blue spinels (rarer). And finally, any time I saw occasional photos of greenness in other people’s collections, I drooled uncontrollably.

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The Choosing Process

From having purchased several loose stones before, I was familiar with the stone size and shape I wanted – facing up 6mm-8mm, a square shape (preferably cushion cut). I purchased stones from several vendors at the same time in order to be able to compare them in person during the return periods (usually a week). Some of them I contacted through PriceScope referrals, from some I purchased stones already posted on their websites (I’m often a chicken and think nothing is scarier than talking to people). I’ll include some pics of all the stones I looked at, for fun 🙂

Gary's 005

1.07 ct, 5.5 x 5.5 x 4.3mm, VS clarity – from Gary @ Finewater Gems
This was the first stone I received, and it had magnificent cut and great clarity. It sparkled in rays of green, was perfectly cushiony, an of intense green. I however decided that I wanted chunkier, larger reflections of green, and that I probably wanted a lighter stone. I returned it fairly quickly.

Yvonne's 011

1.49 ct, 5.9mm from Jaimeen of Prima Gems, sourced by Yvonne Raley @
This stone was magnificent in person and the internet (by which I mean the people who responded to my tsavorite search PriceScope thread) loved it. Here it is in on a friend’s hand, in nice comparison to her diamond. Pictures don’t do it justice. It was fat, gave off the highly desired blue-green reflections, and had this epic fish-scales pattern to the facets.

Gary's vs Yvonne's 009

Here’s a comparison of Gary’s and Yvonne’s stone – here you can see the reasons I ended up returning both stones: in Gary’s, the facets tended to be fairly dark and very slivery. In Yvonne’s while everything was fairly perfect, I didn’t like that, when looked at from the top, the center went transparent (windowed), and a windmill appeared around it.

Jason's 004

1.34 ct Tsavorite Garnet, VVS, 6×5.5×4.6mm, Kenya UNTREATED
From Jason Brim @ Select Gem
He described the stone as “color and tone as vslbG 6/5. Very slightly bluish Green Medium Dark, Strong”.
In this close up, the stone is rather pretty – to my eyes, in most lighting, it looked dull. I kept it around to compare with other stone, I think, but was quickly set on returning it.

So after looking at all these stones, I still wasn’t satisfied. PriceScope heavily suggested reaching out to the son of the man who discovered the first tsavorite mine in Africa – Bruce Bridges. I e-mailed Bruce, and the rest is history. 🙂 I’m only half kidding – even though I was looking for a small stone, under $1000, he delivered the best customer service of anyone I’ve ever worked with. He has a young family, and is a busy man by all accounts, yet his correspondence has consistently conveyed that you are his main and only customer, and he is giving you his full attention. He was so willing and helpful that I almost felt guilty for not making a larger purchase. (I mean, even if it’s a practiced front and not his true personally, it’s still frakking magnificent customer service).

Bruce sent me photos of a number of stones from his stock, and after filtering out shapes and tone I didn’t like, he sent me a couple of stones to look at in person. Two things: first, Bruce’s photo set up is shit. His photos are atrocious 😀 I suppose they accomplish two things – show the faceting fairly well, and lower your expectations. Here’s an example:

I guess it’s in a light box, with light from all angles? How else can it look darkest everywhere?!!

Second, and I don’t know what I did to inspire such trust – the “couple of stones” Bruce sent turned out to be 7 stones. Seven. All priced between $700 and $1000. Together with Jason’s and Yvonne’s stones, I had around $7000 of gemstones in my possession. Whaaa!  I had treasure on my hands and had to make sure to return 5 or all 6 of them in perfect condition. This did make for easy choosing and fun playtimes, of course. I won’t post photos of each of the stones individually – if you’re interested, my full process of stone selection is documented in detail in this PS thread, including lots of gemstone porn. Here are a couple of comparison photos, however:


This photo is most useful for general shape comparison, I think.


This photo was terrific for comparison intensity of green tone – you can very easily see which stones are dark green (in the Medium (M) and Medium + (M+) range vs the ones that are paler and tending toward yellow


Some much delicious greenness. Boy, was this fun.

When choosing between all these tasty colors, I was going for a balance between color intensity and the amount of green facets lighting up (overall brightness). This was difficult! I went through four rounds of filtering, also trying hard to choose the stone I liked most, rather than the one the internet was voting for (which was Yvonne’s stone – it the photo above, it’s the one most on the right).

First Round of Filtering resulted in four stones:

In square box: Yvonne’s 1.46ct cushion cut
Bottom right: Bruce’s 1.02 ct M- cushion cut
Bottom left: Bruce’s 0.91ct M+ cushion cut
Top left: Bruce’s 0.79ct M+ radiant cut

Round two: Decided that the radian cut is too sharp and perfect for my liking, and was leaning towards dropping Yvonne’s stone (I had problems with Yvonne’s stone that I probably wouldn’t be able to get over – once you see in window in a stone, it’s difficult to un-see it, even if it’s small and doesn’t bother the internet).

Left to right: Bruce’s 1.02 M-, Bruce’s 0.91 M+, Yvonne’s 1.46

From left to right, same as the photo above

Third round of filtering, I gave in to myself, and focused on choosing between Bruce’s 1.02 and 0.91. The 1.02 was visibly larger, flatter, had these huge facets and was bright in all lighting conditions. It shone. By itself (if I’ve never seen the deeper green of the M+ stones) it was ideal. The 0.91, while smaller and deeper (perhaps that’s where it got its deeper color), also had chunky facets – and was a definite win on color. To me, they looked like this:

Bruce's 0.91 M+ 001

The 0.91ct M+

Bruce's 1.02 M- 002

The 1.02 M-
See, it frakking glows! I’m really glad I took good photos, so that I can reminisce about all those pretty stones.

I ended up going with Bruce’s 0.91M+, and returning all the other stones.

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Returning the Stones, the “Memo” Arrangement, and Shipping

Returning the stones to vendors to whom I actually paid before receiving the stones was a simple process – this was the case with Yvonne, FineWater Gems, Select Gem. For each, I paid price + shipping (asking for insurance to be included in the shipping costs charged), and then paid shipping + insurance costs back. I used paypal to complete these transactions, and was refunded via paypal, usually a week after the stone were received and confirmed to have arrived in perfect condition. I thanked the vendors, and promised to return to their shops in the future (which I totally do even I’m not planning to make purchases until a future project).

With Bruce, who sent me 7 stones, we entered into a “memo” arrangement, even though I wasn’t very sure what it meant at the time. The terms were thus: the shipping costs are X one way, and if I choose to keep one of the stones, I only pay X. If I return all of them, I pay 2*X. Also, I assume, if I damaged any of the stones, then I would be charged for them in full. Before he sent me the stones, Bruce took down my credit card info – everything that’s necessary to charge it, and explained that after the transaction, the credit card data would be deleted from his system. Furthermore, the typical return period for the stones was 7 days – I asked Bruce if it was ok to ship them a couple of days late, and he was alright with that. In the end, my credit card was charged for the stone price + shipping once he received the stones I returned.

Basically, Bruce is awesome. I cannot recommend him highly enough. About a year after I made the purchase of the tsavorite, I bothered him for a digital receipt for personal insurance purposes, and he replied the next morning, was incredibly helpful as usual and a sweetheart.
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Next up… Part 3 – Side Stones: Sapphires and Rhodolites from Yvonne Raley of Cecile Raley Designs

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5 Responses to Review: Bruce Bridges (My “Relationship” Ring – Part 2)

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