Displaying an aurora of stunning royal blues, violets, indigos, lilacs, periwinkles, and ultramarines, Tanzanite's popularity is well deserved. Demand for Tanzanite has rocketed in recent years, outstripping sales of all other coloured gemstones, with the exception of Sapphire. A thousand times rarer than Diamonds and with a little over a decade of mine life remaining, Tanzanite is the fashion gem of the millennium.
Legends & Lore
- The romance of Tanzanite begins in the arid Merelani foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. Born of fire, Tanzanite's beauty remained secret to Tanzania's nomadic Massai until 1967. Legend has it that a short lived grass fire caused by a lightening strike was the first catalyst that turned burgundy violet surface pebbles of Zoisite (Tanzanite's gemmological name) into the vibrant blues spotted by Massai herdsmen. While wonderfully romantic, it is now generally regarded as unlikely that enough heat could be generated by a grass fire to affect such a dramatic transformation.
- In reality, the story of Tanzanite's discovery is as fascinating as the gem. While it is not known exactly who first found Tanzanite, the most popular story is that a local tribesman, Ali Juuyawatu discovered a translucent Tanzanite crystal at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. Sharing his find with a local prospector called Manuel D'Souza. D'Souza was actually searching for Rubies in the region and initially thought he'd discovered a new source of Sapphires. However, their multitude of blues and complex composition soon revealed Tanzanite's true identity to gemmologists. Interestingly, the legendary Scottish geologist, Campbell R. Bridges, first discovered Tsavorite in Tanzania in 1967 during some Tanzanite consulting work for Tiffany & Co. and was the first person to bring Tanzanite to the USA for identification by the GIA (Gemmological Institute of America) Gem Trade Laboratory.
- Tanzanite soon found its way to America, arriving at the New York based jewellers Tiffany & Co. Henry B. Platt, great grandson of Louis Comfort Tiffany and later President and Chairman of Tiffany & Co., was immediately enraptured by their beauty, but disturbed by its gemmological name "Blue Zoisite". To him the name echoed "Blue Suicide". As with anything in fashion, it's all in the name, so this rare and exotic African gemstone was christened Tanzanite. At Tanzanite's official launch in October 1968, Platt remarked that it "was the most beautiful blue gemstone discovered in over 2,000 years".
- Tanzanite's blue-purple fire soon took the fashion world by storm and was heralded "the gemstone of the 20th century". Demand for Tanzanite jewellery grew dramatically as its global appreciation increased, and in 1998 and 1999 Tanzanite was proclaimed the world's best selling coloured gemstone.
- While Tanzanite was adopted as one of December's official birthstones in 2002 (the first time the list changed since 1912), it is increasingly regarded as the ideal gem to celebrate new life and new beginnings. This belief has its roots in Massai tradition, where blue is believed to be a sacred spiritual colour and bestowed in the form of blue beads and robes to women who have borne children. Today, this tradition has evolved, with Massai chiefs giving Tanzanite to wives on the birth of a baby. This gift is believed to bless their child with a healthy, positive and successful life.
- Tanzanite continues to be all the rage in contemporary jewellery. Tom Ford, "enfant terrible" of the Paris and Milan fashion house Gucci, once dominated the catwalks with a collection modelling exotic blue gems, including Tanzanite.
- At the 2004 Oscar's, Eileen Penn, mother of Oscar winner Sean Penn, stole the limelight from her son with a stunning Tanzanite and Diamond cross pendant.
Just the Facts
- A key ingredient in Tanzanite's success is that it exhibits more shades of blue than a clear midnight sky due to a phenomenon call pleochroism, whereby different colours are seen in different directions of the gemstone. Frequently, Tanzanite exhibits a colour change from the more bluish hues under daylight, to pinkish violets under incandescent light (candlelight). Most of the time, you can actually see both colours simultaneously; this is especially true in larger carat sizes where Tanzanite's colourful brilliance intensifies.
- Tanzanite is also coveted because of its rarity. Tanzanite's production is slowly but surely decreasing and many experts are of the opinion that Tanzanite will disappear in years to come. This has led to Tanzanite gaining considerable kudos; after all, the desire to own something beautiful and unique has always been a decisive factor in fashion. Tanzanite is exclusively mined in East Africa in an area of Tanzania known as Merelani. The conditions involved in Tanzanite's formation 585 million years ago saw the random incorporation of vanadium during an event so unique it is often described as a geological phenomenon. Some experts even go as far as to maintain that the chance of Tanzanite occurring elsewhere is one in a million.
- The Tanzanite deposits are hosted in metamorphic rocks, marbles and schists that belong to the Mozambique Belt (Rift Valley). The deposits run through the low hills of Merelani that rise from the hot Sanya plains, close to Mount Kilimanjaro. Running at an angle of 41 degrees to the surface, the deposit line or horizon periodically folds over itself, creating pockets of Tanzanite.
- Barely covering 20 square kilometres, the Tanzanite mining area has been divided into four different sections known as "blocks" (lettered A, B, C & D) that have been allotted to different mining groups. While the largest scale and most sophisticated techniques used in Tanzanite mining take place in C block, the per tonne yields for rough Tanzanite in C block average only 22 carats (4.4 grams) per processed tonne!
- Representing less than 1% of all Tanzanite mined, Majestic Tanzanite is characterized by intensely deep purple blues and can be likened to an old French wine of an impossibly hard to obtain vintage. Interestingly, the D block section has earned the reputation for supplying the majority of Majestic Tanzanite. Other trade names for high quality Tanzanite are AAA Tanzanite and AAAA Tanzanite.
- Tanzanite typically starts its life as bluish burgundy crystals that are heated to reveal their vibrant lilac, violet and blue colours. Occasionally, this process produces highly coveted and extremely rare fancy colours (Pink Tanzanite, Green Tanzanite, Ultramarine Tanzanite, Bi Colour Tanzanite etc.). Possessing all the kudos of regular Tanzanite, these coloured varieties are far less common and are highly coveted by collectors. In gemmology, the technically correct name for these gems is "(Colour Prefix) Zoisite". However, Coloured Tanzanite is generally accepted in the marketplace due to the gem's popularity and because this name specifies an origin.
- Tanzanite exudes sophistication. It is the quintessence of class while at the same time communicating individuality and self confidence. Lavish Tanzanite jewellery is suited to all ages, emphasizing the non conformity of the young and the sophistication of the mature. However, Tanzanite is rare and growing rarer by the moment. Apart from the sheer pleasure of owning one of this century's most spectacular gemstone discoveries, those fortunate to already own a Tanzanite or to purchase one before the only known deposit is depleted, truly are custodians of this spectacular gem whose legacy will be to pass it on as an heirloom to coming generations.
- Tanzanite's wonderful colours, clarity and range of imaginative cuts lend itself to prominent display. Fashionable drop-earrings and pendants accentuate Tanzanite to the fullest, but Tanzanite is most popularly featured as large carat sized solitaires mounted into prominent ring settings, showing off its scintillating colours to full effect.
- While the heating of greenish brown Zoisite to 600 Degrees Celsius usually reveals the vibrant violet blue colours typically associated with Tanzanite, this process occasionally produces highly coveted and extremely rare fancy colours (e.g. Pink Tanzanite, Green Tanzanite, White Tanzanite etc.). Possessing all the kudos of regular Tanzanite, these coloured varieties are far less common and are highly valued by collectors.
- The gemological name for these gems is "(Colour Prefix) Zoisite"; however, using the more recognizable "Tanzanite" with an appropriate colour prefix is also accepted. Not only do these names denote an origin, but the sheer popularity of Tanzanite also plays a role in the easy acceptance of colour varieties.
- Paraiba Colour Tanzanite is so named for its striking neon ultramarine colours reminiscent of Paraiba Tourmaline, an extremely rare neon green copper bearing variety of Tourmaline from Paraiba in Brazil.
- Bi-Colour Tanzanite is especially rare and displays dual green blue colours all in one gemstone.
- Tanzanite is exclusively mined in East Africa in an area of Tanzania known as Merelani.
- The Tanzanite deposits are hosted in metamorphic rocks, marbles and schists that belong to the Mozambique Belt (Rift Valley). The deposits run through the low hills of Merelani that rise from the hot Sanya plains, close to Mount Kilimanjiro. Running at an angle of 41 degrees from the bowels of the Earth to the surface, the deposit line or horizon periodically folds over itself creating richly concentrated pockets of Tanzanite. These pockets provide gem miners with the richest pickings of these coveted green, pink, ultramarine and purple-blue gemstones.
- The Tanzanite mining area has been divided into four different sections known as "Blocks", respectively lettered A, B, C and D. Together, the different blocks barely cover 20 square kilometers and have been parceled out to different mining groups.
- The largest scale and most sophisticated techniques used in Tanzanite mining and recovery take place in C Block. According to recent reports on C Block mining, there are three main shafts lead down from the surface, known as "Main", "Bravo" and "Delta". The "Main" shaft, located in the middle of the Block, is planned to go some 400m in length along the 41-degree incline and will reach a vertical depth of 275m. "Bravo", situated towards the southern boundary of the Block, will be 300m in length and will reach a vertical depth of 200m, as will "Delta" which is located toward the northern boundary of the Block. An interceptor shaft, known the "JW", cuts the "Main" at a vertical depth of 200m. Not only has "JW" produced the highest per ton yields found so far at an amazing 60 Carats per ton, in the future it will serve as a ventilation shaft for the "Main", thereby ensuring an abundant airflow.
- The four shafts of C Block provide corridors for the access for personnel, the starting points of the mining "stations" and the haulage of Tanzanite ore to the surface by railway carts. The mining stations are the chambers and sub-shafts off the larger access shafts, which follow and exploit the richly concentrated folds of Tanzanite ore. The per ton yields for raw Tanzanite in C Block ore averages 22 Carats (about 4 grams) per processed ton!