Tanzanite is an extraordinary gemstone. It occurs in only one place in the world in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. Its blue, surrounded by a fine hint of purple, is a wonderful colour. Thanks to its unusual aura and the help of the New York jeweller's Tiffany, it has rapidly become one of the most coveted gemstones in the world. Tanzanite is a thousand times rarer than diamond.
It is named after Tanzania where it has been found. On its discovery in 1967, it was enthusiastically celebrated by the specialists as the 'gemstone of the 20th century'. They held their breath in excitement as they caught sight of the first deep-blue crystals which had been found in the Merelani Hills near Arusha in the north of Tanzania. Millions of years ago precious crystals grew in deposits on the inside of these unusual elevations. For a long, long time they were hidden from the eye of Man, until one day some passing Masai shepherds noticed some sparkling crystals lying in the sun and took them along with them.
In Merelani today, the search is carried on for the coveted crystals in several, smallish mines, in some cases using modern methods. As a rule, only small grains are found, but now and again the mineworkers succeed in fetching out a larger crystal – to the joy of the mine owners and that of the large number of tanzanite fans.
Tanzanite is a blue variety of the gemstone zoisite. It consists of calcium aluminium silicate but is not particularly hard, having a value of 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale, roughly similar to Emerald. For that reason, it should always be worn carefully and never placed in an ultrasonic bath for cleaning or brought into contact with acids.
When the first tanzanite were offered to the New York jewellery company Tiffany a short time after their discovery, they sparked an enthusiastic reaction. 'This gemstone is a sensation!', they said. However, they did make a recommendation to give the 'child' another name, since the gemmological correct name 'blue zoisite' was felt to be too close to the English word 'suicide'. So Tiffany's proposed the name 'tanzanite', after the place where the stone had been found - a name which quickly came into general use in the trade. And it was Tiffany's who, two years after its discovery, presented the exclusive gemstone to the general public with a broad-based advertising campaign.
The deep blue of the tanzanite is fantastic, and runs from ultramarine blue to light violet-blue. The most coveted colour is a blue surrounded by a delicate hint of purple, which has a particularly wonderful effect in sizes of over 10 carats. Depending on the angle from which you look at it, the stone may appear blue or purple with pinkish tones. Like diamond the value of tanzanite is related to the colour, cut, clarity and weight (carat).
A tanzanite will continue to fascinate with its unusual, captivating aura. Its deep blue with the slightly purple tinge is one of the most extravagant colours known to man. It personifies immaculate, yet unconventional elegance. A person who acquires one of these exclusive gems is someone who wishes to set himself apart from the hoi polloi. A person who wears it exudes confidence and individuality. The almost magical colour of a perfectly cut tanzanite is one that not only suits confident young women; it is also excellently suited to underlining the individuality of the more mature woman.
In the meantime, almost any price you care to name is being asked, and paid, for tanzanite of good quality and large size. What makes this stone so popular? Is it simply that fantastic colour? No, it is also the exclusivity of its origin. The stone is particularly highly prized because it is found in only one place in the whole world and this mine is predicted to be depleted by 2020. The idea of possessing something that not everyone owns has always been one of the main criteria in the way we esteem special gems.