Tanzanite is a blue and violet gemstone, a variety of the mineral zoisite. It’s a beautiful and very desired stone, usually used as a quality alternative to Sapphires.
There was a tailor Manuel de Souza who lived in Arusha, in 1967 Souza found Tanzanite, it’s not known if he found it on the ground of if it was brought or him by a member of the Maasai tribe who lived nearby.
Souza accumulated a large number of Tanzanite gems and got in contact with a local trader whose parent was in the United States and was the president of Saks Fifth Avenue which was right next to the Jewelry Tiffany. The stones were exported to the US and his father went to Tiffany to ask if they wanted to sell the stone, which the answer was yes!
It is believed that Tanzanite was formed by the intense heat caused by tectonic plate activity.
The pressure exerted by the collision of the African and Arabian plates gave birth to Mount Kilimanjaro and other mineral rich regions like the Mozambique Orogenic Belt.
It was this pressure that made the rocks of each plate reach their melting point and fuse together. During this process (regional metamorphism) beautiful crystal structures, like gemstones are produced.
The crystal that can be produced in this process depend on the types of rocks and chemical elements present in each plate. What’s so unique about Tanzanite is the rare combination of rock needed for its formation, one of such elements is Vanadium which at 600 celsius degrees is transformed and it was this transformation that gave tanzanite its blue colour. It’s stated that the chance of another Tanzanite batch being formed is one million to one.
Tanzanite is a dark translucent violet blue gemstone. Actually Tanzanite is a trichroic stone, meaning it can show different colours depending on what angle we look at them. In the case of Tanzanite, blue and violet are always present the third colour can be light green, light grey or even sometimes red.
In it’s tough state the stone usually has a reddish brown appearance, it requires a heat treatment to bring out its blue violet colour.
It’s a gemstone highly praised by its extreme beauty.
Tanzanite comes from a small mining area of about 14 square kilometers (5.16 square miles) near the Mererani Hills in Tanzania.
This mining area is very close to Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in the african continent, and just by the border of Tanzania and Kenya.
How many types of Tanzanite are there?
Tanzanite comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Tanzanite is rarely pure blue and usually contains some purple overtones.
At smaller sites it usually has lighter tones and a lavender colour, but at larger sites it usually is more beautiful with a rich deeper blue.
The Tanzanite extraction is divided in 4 mining sites, named Block A, B, C and D. Blocks A and C are explored by large foreign mining groups, while Blocks B and D are reserved to locals.
Block A is mined by Kilimanjaro Mining.
Block B is mined only by local artisanal miners.
Block C is mined by TanzaniteOne Mining, and is the largest of the four blocks.
Bock D is mined by both local artisanal miners and by Tanzanite Africa.
Currently Tanzanite mining, cutting and trading, support about 70000 people worldwide.
The most influential group among locals are the Maasai Tribe. They actually claim that the first person to discover a Tanzanite gemstone was a Ali Juuyawatu a member of their tribe. After discovering Tanzanite gems they head to Arusha a village near the mining sites and trade the stones for money.
Tanzanite is a mineral of the Zoisite variety, but since the name Zoisite was very close to suicide the jewelry Tiffany gave it the name Tanzanite. So the name is a mixture of the words Tanzania and Zoisite.
Tanzanite is extremely rare, among the top 10 rarest stones in the world, 1000 times more rare than diamonds.
The gemstone can only be found at a small site in Tanzania and can potentially be mined out within 20 to 30 years. Some say it will disappear when large animals no longer walk the Earth.
The largest rough Tanzanite was mined in 2005 by TanzaniteOne Mining Ltd and was 16,839 carat.
The largest carved Tanzanite is the “L’Heure Bleu” a 725 carat stone by Naomi Sarna of Naomi Sarna Designs.
Being one of the rarest gemstones, Tanzanite is somewhat expensive, but still affordable by western country middle class standards.
In the United States it’s the second best selling stone after Sapphire.
The price varies by size of the stone and by it’s quality grade, AAA, AA or A.
The core factors for the quality grading are known as the four Cs, Colour, Clarity, Carat and Cut. The most valuable colour is thee deep saturated blue. Paler tones are less expensive.
Considering all factors, prices can vary from $100 to almost $500 per carat.
To be rigorous Tanzanite is considered a semiprecious gemstone. But as a matter of fact some gemstone are more rare than some precious stones like diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires.
There is no distinction between precious and semiprecious gemstones, this definition is completely arbitrary. Currently only four gemstones are considered precious, diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires. But actually diamonds are quite common gemstone, their price is so high because of their popularity and efficient marketing.
On the other hand semi precious gemstones like red beryl sell for as much as $10,000 dollars per carat when faceted.
Tanzanite is a stone of the Zoisite type, it’s physical makeup is (Ca2Al3(SiO4)(Si2O7)O(OH)) + (Cr,Sr) and has a hardness of 6 to 6.5.
It’s refraction is 1.69 to 1.70 and specific gravity is 3.10 to 3.38.
Having a violet blue colour, Tanzanite is looks similar to Sapphires.
Other similar stones are: Blue Tourmaline, Benitoite.
Tanzanite is a high value rare gemstone usually used for jewelry products, like pendants, rings, earrings and bracelets.
Tanzanite is one of the most desired gemstone of modern times.
It’s extremely valuable and desired for both its rarity and beauty.
Tanzanite is becoming accepted as the December birthstone along with Zircon and Turquoise.