Think back as you examine the unusual bluish crystal in your hands. This tanzanite stone is one of the rarest stones on the planet, only discovered by happenstance. Its intriguing colors shift from blue to violet as you turn the stone in the light. But why? Learn how to identify tanzanite and tell it apart from other zoisite gems.
What is Tanzanite Stone?
How rare is tanzanite? Many call it the “Gemstone of a Generation,” or the “Gemstone of the 20th Century,” and for good reason. Estimated to be over one thousand times rarer than diamond, tanzanite stone is only found in one place, the Merelani Foothills of Tanzania.
During the late 1960s, a popular narrative tells us that a Maasai Tribesman stumbled upon a clutch of strange, but enchanting, crystals. Captivated by their mysterious blue-violet hue, word quickly spread about this once-in-a-lifetime discovery.
Initially thinking a new deposit of sapphire had been found, the material was quickly analyzed. To everyone’s shock and amazement, the humble tribesman discovered something much rarer than sapphire – a completely new variety of zoisite!
Named to honor its country of origin, tanzanite is the blue to violet variety of zoisite. Let Shop LC help you learn what to look for when buying tanzanite gemstones.
Determining Tanzanite Value
Is tanzanite valuable? The value of colored stones is typically determined by a combination of its color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. This is no different when determining what tanzanite is worth. These guidelines will help in choosing tanzanite stones for your collection.
Tanzanite is the blue to violet variety of zoisite. The gem exhibits pleochroism, meaning that the color of the gemstone shifts as you change its position. This creates a huge challenge for gem cutters, as a compromise always exists between getting the best color out of the gem while keeping it a desirable size.
The ideal color for tanzanite is an intensely saturated violetish blue, accompanied with flashes of deep red, exemplified by ‘AAAA’ tanzanite jewelry in the Rhapsody and Iliana collections. This range of color is estimated to be around one-percent of all finished tanzanite.
‘AAA’ tanzanite shows a strong mix of blue and violet, with flashes of red, in a tight variation of tone. At Shop LC, it represents some of the best value in colored gemstones. For anyone wishing to own an excellent example of a tanzanite gem, it’s the most accessible option. Only around five-percent of tanzanite can be considered ‘AAA.’
Much of the tanzanite jewelry you’ll find at Shop LC is ‘AA’ grade. Still a strong blue to violet color, the presence of red is much less pronounced. Very affordable, ‘AA’ grade tanzanite is best for those who enjoy dabbling in gem collecting.
‘A’ grade tanzanite represents the majority of tanzanite on the market today. This grade presents as a pleasant lavender blue. Anywhere between 50 to 75-percent of tanzanite yield is ‘A’ grade. This grade of gem is frequently used as accent stones in all types of jewelry.
Shop LC tanzanite is predominantly eye-clean. This means that any inclusions are only viewable under ten-times magnification, such as with a jeweler’s loupe. Any inclusions visible to the unaided eye can reduce the value of the stone. As a naturally occurring stone, inclusions within tanzanite can be expected, though careful cutting reduces most of these clarity characteristics into ones that require magnification to see.
As with any colored stone, cutters must always choose between increasing the weight of the finished stone or improving optical factors, like color and clarity. In addition, a lapidary must consider the pleochroic nature of tanzanite. With its range of colors many question whether violet or blue tanzanite is more common. Due to the structure of the stone, cutting tanzanite to bring out its violet color typically means a larger stone. This makes violet-blue gemstones a bit less common, and stones presenting a predominant blue hue rarest of all.
Tanzanite gems occur in a wide range of sizes, meaning there’s something for everyone when choosing this stone. In tanzanite, like other gemstones, the size of the finished jewel has an impact on its saturation of color. Fine stones, with the absolute best color, are typically found in sizes over five-carats. They are the most likely to display the coveted blue-violet color and pleochroism that creates its famous flashes of red. Despite this, pleasant looking stones are available in all sizes, suited to every budget.
While most of us are familiar with the traditional blue-violet variety of tanzanite, there are actually several zoisite gems that are also considered tanzanite.
- Bondi Blue Tanzanite: Named after the sea-blue color seen on the beautiful Bondi Beach in Australia, Bondi Blue Tanzanite displays deep blues tinged with rich greens.
- Natural Green Tanzanite: Similar in color to green tourmaline, Natural Green Tanzanite has a green base color, with red-violet and blue undertones.
- Peacock Tanzanite: Peacock Tanzanite represents features transition between cheerful green and bright blue hues, mimicking the shimmer of the male Indian peafowl.
Gemstone treatments are frequently used to enhance the appearance or durability of a gemstone. Some are so common that it’s commonly assumed that this treatment is always performed.
In the case of tanzanite, these gemstones undergo a heating process. This heat treatment helps draw out the desirable blues and violets that make the stone valuable. You should always expect heat treatment with tanzanite, as the process doesn’t not have any impact on its value.
Many discovery stories often tell of a prospector or tribesman stumbling upon blue tanzanite crystals. Likely, these stones were heating through natural radiation in the ground before making their way to the surface or were heated during natural disasters such as wildfires.
When found untreated, stones typically range from a brownish-green to green color. Rarely, pink specimens have also been found.
Wear tanzanite jewelry with care. Though it has a moderate hardness of 6.0 to 7.0 on the Mohs scale, tanzanite has a susceptibility to cleavage when struck. For an active person, a pendant or earrings may be a better choice than a ring. In addition, tanzanite can be prone to thermal shock. A sudden transition between hot and cool temperatures can cause the stone to fracture.
Who Can Wear Tanzanite?
Blue is a surprising color, as its tone can easily shift the associations we bestow upon it. Tanzanite sits in a unique space among gems. Originally sellers were excited by blue tanzanite, as they thought it would give them a good substitute to sapphire. But, over time, the subtle range of blue to violet has become better known, making tanzanite a desirable gem in its own right.
Blue is one of the most popular colors in the world. And in the United States, it’s one of the most popular colors in the country. The mysterious blues and enchanting violets of tanzanite create a mystique that easily intrigues us all.
Fortunately, tanzanite jewelry covers all of these bases, and then some! The exquisite and deeply saturated colors that have propelled this stone to world renown are perfect for classic and formal attire. Choosing an ILIANA ring, with an expertly set AAA tanzanite gem in 18K white gold, is the ultimate expression of luxury.
Meanwhile, you can find the same premium tanzanite available in affordable options that include settings of precious sterling silver, often enhanced with a platinum or gold finish! These selections are great for their contemporary appeal and are a versatile addition to any collection. Tanzanite fashion jewelry is great for both office and casual attire. Use it to effortlessly transition from day to night.
How Does Tanzanite Compare to Other Stones?
There are many blue gemstones available on the market today. So, understanding how tanzanite fits in will help you choose jewelry to cherish for years to come.
As discussed previously, tanzanite was first thought to be a variety of sapphire. To this day, both gems draw comparisons to one another. However, classic sapphire gems aspire to the coveted cornflower blue hue, as seen in varieties such as Ceylon sapphire. Tanzanite, as you now know, is considered at its best when displaying a transition of blue to violet with flashes of red.
Lighter varieties of tanzanite may be preferable to collectors experienced with aquamarine or sky blue topaz. With similar light hues, these gems are a great way to experiment with the color of tanzanite without diving into the more deeply saturated options. These stones are often daintier and are a good choice for those who appreciate minimalistic jewelry and modern designs.
Where Does Tanzanite Come From?
Tanzanite originates from Tanzania. Popular lore attributes the name to a famous luxury jeweler. Originally known by its variety name, there was a concern that calling the gem “blue zoisite” would sound too similar to the phrase “blue suicide.” Instead, the decision was made to market the stone as tanzanite, named to honor the country in which it was discovered.
Conflicting stories surround the initial discovery of the stone, but some facts remain true in each telling. All sources agree that tanzanite was first discovered sometime in the 1960s. And several of these tales explain that the blue crystal was already known to the Maasai occupying the Merelani Foothills surrounding Mt. Kilimanjaro. From here, it gets a little murky as narratives diverge.
The Tanzanian government recognizes Jumanne Ngoma as the man who discovered tanzanite. In the mid-1980s, Ngoma would receive two certificates legitimizing his discovery of the gem. In April 2018, the Tanzanian government bestowed a large reward to Ngoma, to help care for him in his retirement. The Tanzanian government considers Jumanne Nogma to be a national treasure for his discovery of the stone.
The most widely accepted discovery story explains how fortune hunter Manuel de Souza discovered the stone by accident. De Souza was attempting to prospect further inland for gems, but poor road conditions meant his driver wouldn’t take him the full distance he was intending to travel. So, instead, de Souza began to explore around the village of Mtakuja, where the driver had left him and his crew.
Here de Souza was said to have found the first tanzanite crystals. The story has gained strong support and momentum because of the mountains of evidence supporting it. Not only was de Souza’s discovery covered in major periodicals of the time, many prominent figures within the gem trade have backed his claims in countless anecdotes, articles, and reports.
How is Tanzanite Mined?
Early in its discovery period, the areas around the original find attracted miners and treasure hunters from miles around. To manage the chaos of this discovery, the government divided the grounds into four separate zones, or Blocks. Labeled ‘A’ through ‘D,’ these Blocks bear the same designations to this day. Shop LC sources our supply of precious tanzanite from Block C through our partnership with TanzaniteOne Ltd.
TanzaniteOne is the largest producer of tanzanite, and Shop LC is a top Sight Holder for tanzanite. We commit to buying large parcels so that we can provide daily Low Cost while supporting an ethical supply chain. Our partnership with TanzaniteOne creates a transparent supply chain, giving peace of mind to collectors of rare gemstones. Plus, buying our tanzanite through TanzaniteOne supports the Tanzanite Foundation. Created as the charitable arm of its operations, the Tanzanite Foundation gives back to the local community by providing services such as education and improvement to infrastructure for Tanzanians.
Block C is the largest of the Blocks physically, and also produces the highest yield. Mining for tanzanite continues to rely on hand tools and traditional techniques, but Block C also benefits from modern technology, enabling a more efficient, safer, and reliable extraction of tanzanite gemstones.
In Block C, tunnels descend to depths of over 2600 feet in pursuit of tanzanite. Geological surveying performed in 2013 indicates that tanzanite reserves reach depths of over twice this depth. Challenging miners, however, is the extraction of rough. The deeper you go, the more difficult it becomes to get this stone as concerns over safety increase. This may limit operations in the future as mining companies consider alternatives to existing mining techniques.
Concerns over smuggling and adequately taxing mining firms had reached critical mass in 2018. As a result, the Tanzanian government erected a wall around the tanzanite mines. This wall and other security measures will keep trespassers out while securing the flow of tanzanite rough from the mine. This way, the Tanzanian government can ensure the future of the stone for years to come.
What Does Tanzanite Mean?
Though tanzanite is a recent discovery on the world stage, knowledge of zoisite is traceable to the early nineteenth century. Gem therapists associate zoisite with improving fertility in men and women by stimulating desire and healing reproductive organs. Also, they believe that zoisite provides additional protection during pregnancy for unborn children.
Specifically, tanzanite is said to boost the immune system, protecting us from disease by stimulating healing. Like many other blue stones, crystal healers think it improves communication and sharpens the mind, opening our ability to perceive the greater world around us.
Disclaimer: The information presented is for information purposes only, and should not replace the advice of a trained medical professional.
Is Tanzanite a Birthstone?
Tanzanite is one of three modern December birthstones. A relatively recent addition, tanzanite joined the modern birthstone list in 2002. It was the first major change to the modern birthstone list since 1952. Compared to zircon and turquoise, a tanzanite birthstone is a perfect gift for someone who prefers a moodier, more mysterious birthstone.
Tanzanite jewelry is also the traditional gift for the 24th wedding anniversary.
- Tanzanite ranks 6.0 to 7.0 on the Mohs hardness scale.
- The best tanzanite displays a transition of color from blue to violet, with flashes of red.
- Tanzanite originates in Tanzania, first found in the Merelani Foothills near Mt. Kilimanjaro.
- Tanzanite universally undergoes heating to improve its color.
- Tanzanite is the blue to violet variety of zoisite. Sometimes, it is known in green or pink varieties, but these specimens are very rare.
- How to clean tanzanite jewelry.