The genetic model previously proposed for tsavorite- (and tanzanite-) bearing mineralization hosted in the Neoproterozoic Metamorphic Mozambique Belt (stretching from Kenya through Tanzania to Madagascar) is refined on the basis of new Sm-Nd age determinations and detailed Sr-O-S isotope and fluid-inclusion studies. The deposits are hosted within meta-sedimentary series composed of quartzites, graphitic gneisses, calc-silicate rocks intercalated with meta-evaporites, and marbles. Tsavorite occurs either in nodules (also called “boudins”) oriented parallel to the metamorphic foliation in all of the deposits in the metamorphic belt or in quartz veins and lenses located at the hinges of anticlinal folds (Lelatema fold belt and Ruangwa deposits, Tanzania). Gem tanzanite occurs in pockets and lenses in the Lelatema fold belt of northern Tanzania.
The Sm-Nd isotopic data for tsavorites and tanzanites hosted in quartz veins and lenses from Merelani demonstrate that they formed at 600 Ma, during the retrograde metamorphic episode associated with the East African Orogeny. The tsavorites hosted in nodules do not provide reliable ages: their sedimentary protoliths had heterogeneous compositions and their Sm-Nd system was not completely rehomogenized, even at the local scale, by the fluid-absent metamorphic recrystallization.
The initial 87Sr/86Sr isotopic ratios of calcite from marble and tanzanites from Merelani fit with the strontium isotopic composition of Neoproterozoic marine carbonates. Seawater sediment deposition in the Mozambique Ocean took place around 720 Ma.
The quartz-zoisite O-isotopic thermometer indicates a temperature of formation for zoisite between 385 and 448 °C.
The sulfur isotopic composition of pyrite (between –7.8 and –1.3‰ V-CDT) associated with tsavorite in the Lelatema fold belt deposits suggests the contribution of reduced marine sulfate. The sulfur in pyrite in the marbles was likely derived from bacterial sulfate reduction which produced H2S. Fluid inclusion data from tsavorite and tanzanite samples from the Merelani mine indicate the presence of a dominant H2S-S8±(CH4)±(N2)±(H2O)-bearing fluid. In the deposits in Kenya and Madagascar, the replacement of sulfate by tsavorite in the nodules and the boron isotopic composition of tourmaline associated with tsavorite are strong arguments in favor of the participation of evaporites in garnet formation.