Tanzanite is the blue to violet variety of the mineral zoisite. Typically zoisite is an opaque green to black and can be included by ruby. It is considered a collector's mineral and often will be carved into statuesque creations.
However tanzanite is much more valuable as the gem quality variation. Specimens are an enticing transparent blue and are pleochroic in nature, meaning it will slightly shift in body color when the stone is tilted. Often blue with flashes of purple, sometimes red.
Tanzanite is a recent addition to the prolific list of precious gemstones. It was only just discovered in 1967 at the foothills of Northern Tanzania. While herding cattle, a local tribesman was drawn to flashes of blue emerging from the ground. Believing it to be sapphire, Ali Juuyawatu, brought his discovery to be evaluated by local gem enthusiast Manuel d'Sousa.
Manuel d'Sousa quickly claimed mining rights to the site in hopes of a new sapphire deposit. Others also flocked to the scene, laying claims to try to capitalize on the new riches. Tiffany & Co. stepped in with professional gemological resources to identify the gem as something completely new and named the gemstone after its country of origin. To this day, this small area in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, is the only place on earth that tanzanite is found.
The jewel is considered rare with an unstable resource since Northern Tanzania is victim to many natural disasters as well as being mismanaged as a mine site.
Tanzanite's availability, size, and desirable blue color make the stone incredibly valuable so that it can at times rival sapphire prices.
Jewelry and Care
Tanzanite is one of the traditional birthstones for December.
Rough is typically faceted with gem cutters prioritizing desirable blue with pleochroism.
Tanzanite is a moderately durable gemstone as it is hard but susceptible to cleavage. You will most often see tanzanite set in earrings or necklaces to protect the stone from hard blows.
This stone can be cleaned with a soft brush in warm soapy water or wiped clean with a soft cloth. When stored it should be wrapped to avoid scratching softer stones and to avoid being scratched by harder gemstones. As always, avoid harsh chemicals when wearing any kind of jewelry.