Unlike many other gemstones – Moonstone, Pearl, Opal, Lapis Lazuli, and Amethyst that were known in antiquity –Tanzanite is a youngster or even a baby in gem-world terms of age because it’s only 52 years old this year. Also, unlike many other gemstones, we do not know for sure who discovered the Tanzanite because there are two stories: (1) Manuel d’Souza, a Brazilian tailor-turned-prospector who was unable to get his diamond prospecting licence renewed so turned to gemstone prospecting and found an incredibly beautiful blue-violet stone that he first mistook to be a Blue Sapphire.
The second account that has since been disputed as mere legend tells of a Masai herdsman tending his cattle near Mount Kilimanjaro stumbling on a beautiful blue stone that had been unearthed after a massive underground fire.
Maybe this is a legend but there is a grain of truth to it because Tanzanite’s natural colour is brown and heat is required to bring forth that dazzling blue-violet colour. But whatever the truth of its discovery, Tanzanite has been lauded as the most notable and exciting event of the 20th century in the gem world, the ‘one in a million or miracle’ stone dubbed “The Generational Stone” or the gemstone of our generation because the mine output has been estimated to run out of gems in one generation. That statement, however, according to geologists, is incorrect because the reality is that Tanzanite will still be there in the mine but it will be too difficult and too costly and possibly too dangerous for the miners to bring it to the surface.
What exactly is Tanzanite?
Tanzanite is a mineral or rather to be more exact, a variety of the mineral Zoisite whose colours are pink, yellow, green, bicolours of pink & yellow and green & pink in a single stone, and of course the blue/violet colour combination. Tanzanite, however, also has a splash of green making it a trichroic or a tricolor gemstone that naturally displays a different colour in each direction or axis which then, according to experts, eliminates the possibility of it being duplicated in a lab. Here too though I beg to differ because a recent jewellery show on Canada’s Shopping Channel – Gem Illusions – featured synthetic Tanzanite tennis bracelets, earrings and rings along with other synthetic gemstones including Morganite and Ruby. Tanzanite, however, is not your ‘everyday’ gemstone because it is relatively soft at only 6-6.5 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness – compare a Diamond at 10 on that scale – but despite that softness it is now one of the most popular and most desirable gems on the planet. Additionally, Tanzanite is now recognized as one of December’s birthstones along with Turquoise and Zircon.
Tanzanite’s Geological History
Being such a ‘young’ gemstone, the Tanzanite’s only history is that found in the geological record or history which, according to geologists, began with the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana 500 million years ago. During that upheaval or plate tectonic movement certain features or layers from organic and other sources, e.g. sand and marine life, as well as trace elements, specifically vanadium that is responsible for the stone’s gorgeous blue-violet colour, were buried and metamorphosed at high temperatures and pressure resulting in the crystallization of Tanzanite where it remained until some sort of erosion on the surface of the earth and possibly that underground fire spoken of by that Masai herdsman brought the deposit of Tanzanite to the earth’s surface in an area close to the town of Mireranii in northeast Tanzania.
One Only Source for Tanzanite in the Entire World or a fabulous Marketing Strategy?
We all know the power of advertising and an outstanding marketing strategy, e.g. De Beers’ A Diamond is Forever slogan so, was Tanzanite’s nickname ‘Generational Stone’ the truth, as in only available for our generation, or a good marketing ploy/strategy? I ask this not just because I’m a skeptic who did indeed believe this concept though thought it implausible that the supercontinent breakup would reveal only one source in the entire continent but also because of the recent rumour in gem-world circles that another mine had been located in the region of Mount Kilimanjaro (the Masai herdsman story?). Its exact location, however, has not been revealed by the Tanzanian government that is now considering building a wall around it like they have done with the Mirerani mine that has become the victim of countless acts of violence and theft in the past year and to protect the miners. The Tanzanian government is also in the process of changing their laws to benefit the country’s economy and have greater control over their natural resources and maybe – though this is mere supposition on my part – to keep international prospectors out. But whatever the reason, it appears that Tanzanite will be available for many years to come.
If you don’t know this gemstone and might like to see it for yourself, I suggest you go to LL Private Jewellers for more information and an incredible eye candy experience. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed but rather encouraged to design your own Tanzanite necklace, ring, or brooch.
Please if you would like to have more information about Tanzanite gemstones, please contact LL Private Jewellers at 604-684-6343