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Tanzanite: Africa’s Rarest Gem

June 15, 2015

tanzanite stonesTanzanite is one of the rarest gemstones in the world. Formed more than 550 million years ago in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, it remained unknown until 1967, when a prospector named Manuel d’Souza and a Maasai tribesman called Ali Juuyawatu discovered it whilst searching for sapphires. The Tanzanian region still remains the world’s only source of this highly prized stone.

Tanzanite is trichroic, which means it shows three colours – brown, blue and violet. Once heated, cut and polished, tanzanite’s hue ranges from electric violet to vibrant blue to a deep indigo.

A thousand times scarcer than diamonds, the supply of the precious stone could be completely depleted in 10 to 15 years’ time. Tanzanite is available in jewellers’ store across South Africa, so ‘while stocks last’ what should you look for when buying tanzanite?

4 ‘C’s to look for when buying tanzanite
The Tanzanite International Grading System values tanzanite according to the four Cs: colour, clarity, cut and carat weight. The higher the combinations of these characteristics in the gem, the more valuable the stone.
•  Colour: intensity of colour from blue to violet
The depth of colour ranges from Exceptional to Pale, with a ‘B’ or ‘V’ indicating a predominance of blue or violet hues. The deeper the colour, the more valuable the tanzanite.
•  Clarity: determining the natural flaws and inclusions in the gem
Tanzanite ranges from Eye Clean to Heavily Included (‘included’ meaning crystals that have a dark appearance rather than a clear, transparent appearance). The more flawless the tanzanite, the more valuable it is.
•  Cut: proportion and brilliance
An ‘Excellent’ cut ensures that the stone’s facets reflect light to create maximum brilliance. The more precise the craftsman’s cutting, the more valuable the tanzanite.
•  Carat: the unit in which the stone is weighed.
One carat has 100 points and weighs 1/5th of a gram. Two seemingly identical pieces of tanzanite will have different carat weights if they vary in depth.

Be aware: The hardness of tanzanite must be considered. According to Mohs scale of mineral hardness, tanzanite is relatively soft and vulnerable to scratches. So, this pretty gem should only be used for pieces for occasional wear, particularly care needs to be taken with tanzanite stones in rings, which can be damaged quite easily.


5 fascinating facts about Tanzanite
1. It is the official birthstone for December.
2. Tanzanite has been attributed with qualities of good luck and prosperity and associated with celebrations of new life and new beginnings.
3. Amongst the Maasai people of Tanzania, the colour blue is seen as sacred and spiritual. Tanzanite is given to Maasai women after the birth of a child, and to all new born children, as an offering of health, positivity and prosperity to the child.
4. Tanzanite is said to have many mystical and healing powers. It supposedly uplifts and opens the heart.
5. The biggest tanzanite in the world is a single large crystal of 16,839 carats that weighs well over 3kg. It has been named “The Mawenzi” after Kilimanjaro’s second highest peak.



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