Tanzanite is considered one of the rarest and most stunningly beautiful gemstones in the entire world. Found only in one place, outside Arusha, Tanzania, this stone is also the only newly discovered gemstone of the twentieth century. The stone varies in color, from a dark intense blue to a bright blue and violet. Due to their beauty and rarity, they have quickly become one of the most sought after and beloved gems. Jewelry collectors everywhere have been hard-pressed to keep on top of the demand for good quality Tanzanite.
History Of The Tanzanite Stone
As mentioned above, Tanzanite is one of the only gemstones to be discovered in the twentieth century. A prospector discovered the gem while looking for Rubies just outside of Arusha, Tanzania. When he realized he didn’t know what it was, he sent his discovery to Nairobi and eventually it was confirmed by a Tanzanian that it was a brand new stone.
Tanzanite’s scientific name is blue Zoisite, but in 1968 Tiffany’s launched their line of jewelry based on the stone and renamed it Tanzanite. After the success of the jewelry line at Tiffany’s, Tanzanite quickly became a favorite in the Western world. In the early 2000’s, Tanzanite became the second most popular colored gemstone in the United States, after Sapphires. And, because it’s rare, even more so than diamonds, it’s become a true fashion statement in the last decade.
Famous Tanzanite Stone
Like all gemstones there are some stunningly beautiful Tanzanite pieces that have risen to fame in recent years. One example of this is a 12 carat Schneider ring that sits in Washington DC’s Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Also in this collection is the Peterson brooch with matching earrings which comes in at a spectacular 30 carats.
However, the most popular and truly the most magnificent of all famous Tanzanite jewels is the Queen of Kilimanjaro. This true symbol of the stunning beauty of Tanzania is a 242 carat gem set in a lovely tiara. It’s surrounded by hundreds of garnets and hundreds of diamonds. While there are plenty of beautifully set Tanzanite jewels, the Queen of Kilimanjaro stands high above the rest.
Tanzanite Stone Origin
While the origin of Tanzanite is pretty clear and well-documented, the legends behind the stone are very interesting. One of the most popular told and retold by native Tanzanians, is the origin of the Tanzanite stone. Many believe that lightning struck the ground around Mount Kilimanjaro, filling the stones and rocks around the mountain with fire from the skies. These stones were filled with magic, which gave them the beautiful blue and purple color for which their known.
Tanzanite Stone Specifications
Since Tanzanite is from the mineral Zoisite, it has the same physical and optical properties. The specifications of the Tanzanite stone are:
- Crystal Structure: Prismatic Crystals
- Color: Blue to Violet Blue
- Hardness: 6.5 on the Mohs scale (what does this mean?)
- Refractive Index: 1.69 to 1.70
- Density: 3.10 to 3.38
- Cleavage: Perfect
- Transparency: Transparent to opaque
- Double Refraction or Birefringence: -0.006 to -0.018
- Luster: Vitreous
- Pleochrosim: Trichroic or Dichroic (What does Pleochroism mean?)
How to Select a Tanzanite Stone
Selecting a Tanzanite stone is very similar to selecting a quality Diamond. Just like when considering Diamonds, the three C’s need to be considered: Color, Clarity and Cut.
When considering the color of Tanzanite, high-quality gems should be a deep blue to a violet blue. The higher the quality, the deeper the color. Clarity indicates how the stone shines. High-quality stones should have a certain luster. There are several different ways Tanzanite can be cut. The typical cuts are ovals and cushions, as are popular with diamonds.