The History of Tanzanite

Posted by JewelryKind

The exact story behind the tanzanite’s discovery still remains something of a mystery, but Maasai communities have developed their own legends around this marvelous find. The Maasai tell stories of how the land was set on fire by a bolt of lightning and believed that it was the heat from the ‘magic fire in the sky’ that changed these crystals on the ground into glittering blue-violet gems.

Tanzanite is part of the zoisite mineral family, which is well-known for nearly two centuries ago. This zoisite family occurs in many different varieties of minerals, and tanzanite is the most popular of all of them. This mineral family took the name of zoisite in 1805, named after the scientist Baron Siegmund Zois von Edelstein from Austria.

Tanzanite is quite new to the colored stone category. The most typical story of the tanzanite discovery and mining boom says that in 1967 a Masai tribesman found a cluster of highly glassy, transparent and intensely blue crystals coming out of the earth in Merelani area in northern Tanzania. The tribesman quickly notified a local fortune hunter by the name Manuel d’Souza, he immediately registered four mining claims and started mining.

D’Souza thought that he had been shown a new type of sapphire sample. Instead, the deposit held one of the latest of the earth’s gemstone. Gemological tests revealed that the crystal’s composition is far more complicated than that of sapphire, also that the color was far more alluring, intriguing, and more exotic than any other gemstone of the same family.

Within a short period of time, another 90 more mining claims appeared in the same 20-square-mile area. At that point, nobody knew exactly what the beautiful crystal gems were or where it came from, but everyone just wanted to lay claim to the profits they were sure to make. The new gemstones would afterward be known as tanzanite, and it would, at times, compete with the Big three in popularity.

The American company Tiffany & Company then recognized the full potential of the gem as an international seller and made a deal with the local miners to become the gem’s primary distributor worldwide. It was at Tiffany that the gem was named after the country of its origin. And in 1968, the company marketed the gem with a huge promotional campaign. Almost instantly, tanzanite became very popular with all the prominent jewelry designers and every gem professionals. Also, customers with an eye for unusual and beautiful gems were not left out.

This overnight popularity of this glassy blue to purple to violet gem was because of its high clarity, vivid color, and a potential for huge stones cut out.

The price of the blue crystal gem has apparently gone up due to the laws of supply and demand, and will continue to go up as high grades of Tanzanite is sold for as much as $2000 per karat or even more. Just like most other gems, when there increase in the karat weight, the price per karat also goes up.

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One Comment

  1. Eddie C.

    March 20, 2017 at 3:39 am

    Thanks for this post, I’m always on the lookout for more information about tanzanties, and good to know that there are others doing their research too – and you’ve put some great links and resources for people to check out as well.

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