Tanzanite is a beautiful, rare and undervalued gemstone. My research has left me fascinated and I’m excited to share with you. This gem is for December babies, 24th wedding anniversary lovebirds, and for those mesmerized by the deep blue and violet colors of the gem.
If are considering to purchase Tanzanite jewelry, this post will serve you well. You’ll learn where this gem is sourced from, jewelry options, key characteristics such as color, carat, cut and clarity, heat treatment, the mystery behind certifications and grading, price and more.
Unlike precious stones such as rubies, sapphires and emeralds, Tanzanite discovered relatively recently, in 1967 in Tanzania, East Africa.
According to a popular story, a Maasai tribesman Ali Juuyawatu showed his crystals to a tailor, Manuel de Souza. A gemologist in Nairobi later identified these crystals as blue zoisite. A year later, Tiffany and Co. learnt about the discovery. They branded the crystals as “Tanzanite.” The name was changed because “zoisite” sounded like “suicide” – not something most of us want to be associated with.
Tanzanite gets it’s name from Tanzania, the East African country where the gemstone was discovered. It is only to be found in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. The mining area is only eight square kilometers. 585 million years ago, the right geological conditions led to the formation of this gemstone. The likelihood of finding Tanzanite anywhere else in world is one in a million.
According to geologists, there is only a limited supply of Tanzanite that will last till the year 2028. This makes it a very rare and precious gemstone. The key takeaway here is that it is one thousand times rarer than diamonds.
About Tanzanite Jewelry
The attractive blue and violet colors make it an excellent gemstone for fine jewelry. A combination of Tanzanite and diamonds or the gemstone by itself on solid gold, makes a gorgeous jewelry piece.
This gemstone has a hardness between 6 – 7 on the Mohs Scale. Compare that pure gold, with hardness between 2.5 – 3, platinum with hardness of 3.5 and diamond with hardness of 10. In other words, Tanzanite is not as tough as a diamond but tougher than platinum.
It is recommended to opt for pendants, earrings or rings with protective mounting to prevent the gemstone from scratching. If you plan to wear Tanzanite jewelry occasionally and are careful with your jewelry pieces, you can opt for rings without a protective mounting.
Gifting Tanzanite Jewelry
Gifting Tanzanite gemstone jewelry to yourself or your loved ones is a great idea. This gemstone is commonly worn by people born in December and a gift for couples celebrating their 24th anniversary. Other lesser known reasons to wear and gift tanzanite jewelry are for astrology purposes and during the birth of a child respectively. Some astrologers prefer tanzanite instead of sapphire due to it’s healing properties.
For Maasai tribesmen, blue symbolizes new beginnings. Women are not permitted to wear blue until they have had a child. For this reason, Tanzanite is gifted to women at the time of the child’s birth.
4Cs – Color, Cut, Carat, Clarity
This post would be incomplete if we didn’t discuss the 4Cs.
Tanzanite shows blue, violet and burgundy colors. The direction from which the gemstone is viewed causes it to change color. This is also known as pleochroism. Rare and most prized gemstones have deep saturated blue or intense violet-blue color. Pale colors are often of lesser value.
The cut enhances a certain color in a Tanzanite. This makes gemstone cut an important consideration when it comes to buying this gem.
There are also green and pink gemstones. These gem varieties have the same mineral i.e. zoisite. Gemological Institute of America (GIA) refers them as green and pink zoisite.
Precious and highly valued gems are cut to maximize profit and enhance appearance. For cutters, this is a delicate dance. They want to please the buyer with the best gem color and not waste too much of the rough gem during the cutting process.
The composition of Tanzanite is such that bluish-violet gemstones lead to less wastage for the cutter. For deep blue stones, there is more wastage. Greater wastage translates into higher cost for the buyer.
Similar to other gemstones, Tanzanite is available in various shapes. However oval and cushion-cut are more commonly available.
Highly prized Tanzanite weighs five carats or more. These rare gems have deep, saturated colors. Smaller carat gemstones are relatively easier to source. Two gemstones of the same carat weight may differ in size due to variation in length and width.
If you are looking to purchase delicate jewelry, smaller gemstones will be just fine. For statement jewelry or one-of-a-kind purchase, gemstones weighing 5 carat or greater would be a better option. Deciding on carat size ultimately comes down to personal preference and taster.
Most Tanzanite is free of any visible inclusions with excellent clarity. Gemstones with fractures or visible inclusions are less valuable. Therefore they cost less.
The Maasai tribesman tell stories of how a bolt of lighting set the land on fire. The heat transformed the crystals on the ground into blue-violet gemstones.
Rough Tanzanite is not blue or violet in color. When mined, it has a brownish, burgundy color. The rough stones are heated at 500 degrees celsius for 30 minutes. These conditions mimic the hot conditions millions of years ago. The heat treatment transforms the rough stones into blue and violet gems. The gems are then graded, cut and polished.
Most natural Tanzanite is gently heated.
To preserve the beauty and allure of your beautiful gem, simple care can go a long way. Use of mild soap water for cleaning. Do not use ultrasonic or steam cleaners. If you wearing your jewelry occasionally, you may only need to clean the jewels once every 3-5 years.
Like other precious gemstones, use basic judgement and don’t wear jewelry when taking a shower, cooking, swimming or in the spa.
Tanzanite Certificates and Grading
You may ask, “How do I know if my gemstone is real?”. To address this concern, nonprofits such as GIA issue Gemological Identification Reports. GIA can assess the characteristics of a mounted or loose tanzanite (weight, measurement, shape, cutting style and color), say whether it is natural or synthetic, and indicate any detectable treatments.
It is important to understanding that an “identification report” is not the same thing as “grading certificate”. Grading gemstones is a complicated process that requires multiple steps. Unlike diamonds, there is no uniform grading standard for this gem.
Some retailers create their own rating system such as A, AA or AAA grades. This rating is not an industry standard.
Tucson Tanzanite Protocol (TPP) protects the gemstone and ensures an ethical route to market. Industry and government adopted TPP in 2003. Also Tanzanite Foundation’s Mark of Reality™ gives retail buyers the confidence that their purchase is conflict free. Purchasing gemstones with this attestment is optional and a personal choice.
The price depends demand and rarity of the gem. Tanzanite can cost anywhere between $200 – $600+ carat.
Generally speaking, the cost follows the color scale noted below:
Deep-blue > violet-Blue (vB) > Violet-blue (Vb) > pure-violet or pure-purple
Remember, you are paying for the gem’s beauty and allure. If you are in love with Tanzanite jewelry and trust your jeweler, you should move forward with the purchase. There is finite amount of Tanzanite available. This makes it a very valuable gemstone.
TanzaniteOne owns majority of the mining operations. However due to complex government laws and illegal infiltration and violence has led to challenges for TanzaniteOne. These challenges have been an obstacle for the “Tanzanite Generation” from reaching its full growth potential in international markets such as the United States, Europe, India and China. However once education and marketing efforts catch on, value of Tanzanite will rise.
We’ve covered a lot about Tanzanite in this post. You’ve learnt about:
- The gemstones discovery
- Jewelry pieces with this beautiful and rare gemstone
- The 4C’s i.e. color, cut, carat and clarity
- Heat treatment
- Gemstone care
- Certificates and grading
- Conflict free and ethical sourcing
- Price and much more
If you have additional questions, feel free to contact us or leave a comment below. We love hearing from you.
- Richland Gemstones, owner of the largest mine
- Gemological Institute of America, is the leading source of knowledge, standards, and education in gems and jewelry
- TanzaniteOne Foundation
- TanzaniteOne, world’s largest supplier
- A Rare and Beautiful Stone Fails to Shine: Tanzania’s Missed Opportunity – Knowledge@Wharton
- Crystal Vault: Meanings and Uses