You might love your tanzanite jewelry and cherish its bold blues, pretty purples, and vibrant violets, but have you ever asked yourself why your tanzanite ring or pendant is so popular, and also rising in popularity? Did you know that tanzanite is rare, and becoming rarer?
Where Does Tanzanite Come From?
Natural tanzanite is mined exclusively from one geographical region in Tanzania, Africa – the Merelani Hills in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. The miners who mine tanzanite, which is a thousand times rarer than diamonds, are those of TanzaniteOne Mining, the world’s largest supplier of tanzanite.
The whole tanzanite mining area is incredibly small, especially when compared to other sources for precious gemstones, like diamonds or sapphires. The area in which tanzanite is mined is just over 10.5 sq. miles – and a recent study just released findings that said that the largest of the tanzanite mines would be fully depleted in less than 30 years.
Because of this, and because tanzanite has a single source and a dwindling supply, make it rarer than diamonds, and increasing in its demand and price as the years pass. As one of the newest gemstones to be introduced into the American market, and the first since 1912 to be added to the official list of birthstones by the American Gem Trade Association, tanzanite has quickly risen to compete with the Big Four staples: rubies, diamonds, sapphires, and topaz.
How Is Tanzanite Formed?
The tanzanite mines took an estimated 585 million years to form, a result of massive underground tectonic shifting and heat. Natural tanzanite is not blue or violet, but a reddish brown in color, and it is only after it is treated to extreme heat that the coveted deep blues and purples come alive. Naturally trichroic, it is only rarely that the blue-violet stone is found in its rough state. Most of the rough stones are exposed to around 700 degrees Fahrenheit, and carefully arranged – as fractures, inclusions, and abrasions in the stone can cause it to crack. The stone’s orientation during this heating process can often influence the color to which it transmutes.
Who Discovered Tanzanite?
The story goes that this gemstone remained hidden, especially its now-popular blue color, until 1967, after a series of fires attacked the Merelani Hills and surrounding area. It was after these fires that Maasai herders, the semi-nomadic warrior tribe who live in the area, stumbled upon the hidden nature of this previously dull-looking stone. It was after that time that Manuel d’Souza, a part-time prospector living in the area also found fragments of the crystals, though he initially misidentified them as another mineral. Tanzanite samples were sent to Hyman Saul, vice president at Saks Fifth Avenue, who began the process of official recognition and identification as a new gemstone. Though it was Tiffany & Co. who later changed the name to tanzanite, marketing the stone as a wonder found only in two places, “in Tanzania and at Tiffany’s.”