Tanzanite is a rare and precious gemstone found in only one place in the world, beneath the sweeping grasslands at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, East Africa.
Formed more than 585 million years ago during the shifting of the continents known as the Pan-African Event, tanzanite is the blue gemstone variety of the mineral zoisite. Whilst zoisite is relatively common, it was the combination of zoisite and another mineral, vanadium, coupled with the intense heat and pressure caused by the movements deep within the earth that created tanzanite. This combination of geological factors was so unique that experts describe the chances of tanzanite being discovered elsewhere in the world as "less than one in a million." With its single source and a finite supply expected to last just a single generation, tanzanite is described as one thousand times more rare than diamonds.
Tanzanite lay undiscovered by man until 1967, when, so the story goes, a Maasai tribesman stumbled upon shimmering blue crystals on the ground. Fascinated by their color, the tribesman shared his find with a Portuguese prospector who was looking for rubies in the region. Although they initially believed their new find to be a vibrant sapphire, gemological tests soon revealed that the crystals were something entirely new, with an alluring and spectacular color that was all their own.
It is this unique, multi-dimensional color that sets tanzanite apart from all other precious gemstones. Tanzanite is trichroic, which means that it radiates three different colors from each of its crystallographic axes, namely blue, violet and burgundy. When rough tanzanite crystals are brought to the surface of the earth, they range in color from brownish burgundy to mid-blue and violet. The crystals are then heated to relatively low temperatures, which serves to accelerate the natural processes of geology. Once heated, tanzanite's color is stable and permanent, and there is no structural or chemical alteration evidenced between heated and unheated tanzanite.
When it has been cut and polished, tanzanite radiates a dazzling kaleidoscope of royal blue, violet, indigo, lilac and periwinkle. Tanzanite's variety of hues give it a broad appeal. Its delicate lilac and light blue shades are universally flattering, whilst the deeper, more intense colors with the greatest fire and brilliance are exceptionally rare, and typically command higher prices.
Since its discovery, tanzanite has enchanted discerning jewelry buyers seeking rarity and distinction. It has also captured the imaginations of today's consumers as they focus more and more on the history of gemstones, their symbolism and their cultural heritage. The tanzanite story is a story underpinned by an age-old Maasai affinity with the color blue, regarded as sacred, healing and above all representative of new life. This Maasai tradition from the heart of Africa has inspired the growing popularity of tanzanite as a gemstone to celebrate birth and new beginnings.
Tanzanite is a precious gemstone, and like all gemstones should be treated with care to preserve its beauty and value. Tanzanite is rated a 6.5-7.0 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, making it as hard as an emerald but less brittle. As such, tanzanite is best suited to dress rings, necklaces and earrings and should not be worn during any vigorous activity that could expose it to damage. Tanzanite should be cleaned by soaking it in lukewarm, slightly soapy water and ultrasonic cleaning methods should be avoided. Jewelry should be kept in protective packaging when it is not being worn. Jewelers should always remove tanzanite from its setting before undertaking any alterations to jewelry to avoid accidental damage.
Gemstone information provided in cooperation with the Tanzanite Foundation.
The Tanzanite Foundation is a non-profit organization that safeguards and promotes the rare and precious gemstone tanzanite. It works with its Members, including Tanzanite International, to support meaningful and sustainable projects developed in harmony with local communities in Tanzania. Visit www.TanzaniteFoundation.org to learn more.