Tanzanite is a classic and gorgeous gemstone. It also happens to be a relatively recent one, and as such, does not have the long and glamorous histories of most other gemstones. But it has quickly become a valued and admired stone.
Tanzanite is one of the rarest gemstones on the planet. In fact, it is about a 1000 times more rare than diamonds! Even so, it is a relatively affordable gemstone. This makes it an excellent addition to any jewelry collection. In this article, we’ll take a look at the basics of tanzanite, what to look out for when shopping and how to maintain your stone.
How is tanzanite formed?
Tanzanite hails from Tanzania, a country in southeast Africa. Tanzania was the first place tanzanite was discovered which is where the name is derived from. It has only been found in this location, in an area claimed to be only 2 km long and 7 km wide at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It has been called the most beautiful stone discovered in the last 2000 years! Shortly after it’s discovery in the 1960s, Tanzanite was given its name by the jewelry company Tiffany&Co and joined the ranks of known gemstones.
Tanzanite is made of the mineral zoisite. It is speculated that rough tanzanite was formed during the intense heat and pressure of the tectonic activity that created Mt. Kilimanjaro. It is estimated that the supply of tanzanite will run out in the next couple of decades, which is why it is called ‘the gemstone of a generation’.Tanzanite is a “geological phenomenon” and the chances that another mine will be found are about a million to one!
This generation of shoppers will be the last who will be able to purchase a tanzanite from the primary market.
Choosing the cut of tanzanite
The cut of your tanzanite is very important as the proper cut will reflect light and display the colors in your stone with great brilliance. It plays a critical role in adding beauty and value to the tanzanite stone.
Unlike many other gemstones such as diamonds or emeralds there is no typical or ideal cut for a tanzanite. It is really up to the buyer. You can choose from the wide range of gemstone cuts available, such as princess, marquise, emerald, round, heart, radiant or pear.
Some things to look for when searching for your perfect piece of tanzanite is a symmetrical cut that will expertly display your stone’s shine and the way light is reflected in your stone. Notice where the light and dark patches in your stone occur. An expert gemologist will cut these to advantage.
Understand the Clarity of your stone
The more flawless the stone, the higher its value and beauty. As is the case with any gemstone, what to look out for are the inclusions. With tanzanite, visible inclusions will appear as small blemishes residing inside the stone. Obviously, the most desirable stone will have no visible inclusions.
The clarity of tanzanite is graded on whether or not the stone is eye-clean. This means that if there are no inclusions visible to the naked eye, the stone will be graded flawless. Pure, inclusion free stones are rarer and will often times be more expensive.
Chose the carat that is right for you
Carat refers to the weight of any given gemstone. This is not the same across the board, however, due to the fact that some gemstones are denser than others. For example, a diamond and a tanzanite of the same carat weight will be of different sizes when placed next to each other.
While carat weight may not affect the cut or color of your stone, it will definitely affect the cost. All things being equal, larger stones will be more expensive than smaller pieces.
Pick the dominant color of your stone
In its raw form, tanzanite contains three colors which means it is trichroic. These colors are brown, violet and blue. As tanzanite is heated, whether underground by natural metamorphic occurrences or in a furnace, it becomes dichroic, meaning it exhibits two colors simultaneously.
Interestingly, it is one of only two gemstones that is dichroic. These two colors are blue and violet.
Color: Violet and Blue
In a piece of tanzanite where the blue is more dominant it will be described as vB. The v is in lower case because the violet color is less prominent than the blue, shown as a capital B. Conversely, for a stone where the violet is the dominant color, the V would be capitalized and the b would be in lower case: bV.
Which tanzanite color is more desirable?
Many people believe that a dark blue tanzanite is the most desirable. They can often be more expensive than a violet dominant. However, at wholesale costs, the difference isn’t very large.
It is likely that dark blue tanzanite is more expensive because of its similarity to the more expensive gem, sapphire. Regardless of the size of your stone however, all tanzanite will possess at least a small amount of both violet and blue.
Tanzanite in the light:
Lighting plays a big role in the color of tanzanite. This is one way to see the depth of color that lives inside your stone. In natural light, your stone will often possess a more dominant blue color. Under artificial light, the very same stone will possess more of a violet color.
This is typical of tanzanite and is due to its unique crystalline structure. This is why it is a good idea to view the stone under different sources of light prior to making a purchase.
Size and Color:
One important thing to take into consideration when shopping for your perfect piece of tanzanite is the saturation. This term refers to the color intensity of your stone. A stone with a very low saturation will be nearly clear with a slight tinge of color. A high saturation means the stone has a vibrant and deep color.
Typically, the larger the stone, the richer the color, or the higher the saturation. Smaller stones will possess a more pastel color with a lower saturation.
Tanzanite will often have a saturation resting right in the middle and tending towards a higher saturation. Whether you chose a larger, darker stone, or a smaller, lighter stone, it is completely up to preference. Just because a stone is of a lighter color and perhaps smaller does not mean it is less desirable, it simply means it is a little more common than a darker stone.
Is there synthetic or imitation tanzanite on the market?
Tanzanite has not yet been successfully synthesized, which means that you can be sure the tanzanite you buy on the market is natural. When we say synthetic tanzanite we are talking of lab-created/man-made tanzanite that has the same chemical and optical properties of mined tanzanite.
However, there are some imitations you need to be aware of. Synthetic forsterite looks very similar to lower and medium grades of tanzanite and is often sold as tanzanite. Check for birefringence (double refraction) of the stone by holding it up to light and observing the facets. If these appear doubled up, it is highly likely that the stone is a fosterite. Tanzanite does not display double refraction as its birefringence is low. You can also use a cheap jewelers loupe for this test.
Be aware also of certain ‘treatments’ that some retailers do to bump up the price of the tanzanite. Sometimes, lower grade tanzanite is coated with cobalt to enhance and deepen the stone’s color. You will end up paying a premium for a stone that is not worth as much.
Conversely, sometimes tanzanite is the imitator! Vendors sometimes attempt to sell a piece of tanzanite in the place of a sapphire. The sapphire has a very rich deep blue color similar to high quality tanzanite.
However, tanzanite is different to sapphire because there will always be traces of violet in the tanzanite. Though the subtle violet may not be visible through the naked eye, taking your stone to a gemologist will give you the assurance that the piece you have spent money on is indeed the stone you desired in the first place.
Decide the piece that fits your lifestyle
Tanzanite in jewelry
Tanzanite is a choice gem for rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Choosing the right piece for you depends primarily on your lifestyle. The first thing to do is consider these few factors:
It is easy for the cost of tanzanite to rise quickly as your tastes become more elaborate. The first step to take in the process of purchasing tanzanite is to determine how much you are willing to spend. This will give you good guidelines to stay within when shopping.
The style you choose for your piece of tanzanite depends on your lifestyle and how you wish to wear your jewelry. For a more active lifestyle you may decide on some simple stud earrings. For an elegant statement piece you may sway towards a bracelet or a necklace. If you are looking for engagement rings, or a more romantic statement, a ring is a great choice. The more elaborate the piece the higher the cost will be.
Metal and Setting:
Typically tanzanite will be paired with sterling silver or white gold. These metal colors complement the piercing blueish violet color of tanzanite. Tanzanite is often paired with diamonds, just like sapphire.
For a more vintage and classic look, pair tanzanite with yellow or rose gold. While this is not very common, it makes for a statement look.
Where to buy?
There are benefits to buying tanzanite both online and in person. Shopping online gives you the entire world of tanzanite jewelry to explore and can often times offer you great deals and low costs. Shopping in person is beneficial because you can touch and hold a piece before you buy it. You can get an up close look at the piece before purchase to get a sense of the colors that really shine through.
Shopping online is probably the easiest way to shop. Many common jewelry stores will also have an extensive online market. Shops such as Jared, Tiffany&co, and Zales have an abundance of choices in their online market for tanzanite. It is also possible to find amazing pieces on Amazon or Etsy. The cost on these sites may be low, but you may not have the guarantee of purchasing from a registered jeweler.
Shopping online allows you to search within your specific guidelines such as style, cut and cost, thus ensuring you will only see pieces that fit your criteria. This makes it a little easier to find an ideal piece with very little work on your part.
Shopping in person will give you the opportunity to browse various pieces, try them on, look closely at them and see what works best for you in person. Most jewelry stores will carry various tanzanite pieces, however they will not have the variety that you can find online.
A good idea would be to browse both online and in person. This will give you the opportunity to try on a specific style of jewelry you like, perhaps utilizing different stone, and then purchase it online with tanzanite once you get an idea of what you like and what fits best into your lifestyle.
Cleaning your tanzanite stone
Caring for tanzanite is important to maintaining its value through the ages. Remember that tanzanite is a one-generation stone. How much more valuable and special will it be in the future when the stores of tanzanite are depleted!
While the tanzanite looks like a sapphire, it is not very hard. In fact, it ranks at 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This means that it can easily be scratched by any harder substance. It is best to store all of your stones separately or in small boxes or bags individually to prevent damage.
When you wear tanzanite, take care not to expose it to hard knocks or shocks. Keep it safe from harsh chemicals, such as detergents, bleach or make-up.
Over time, dirt and grime buildup can cause the stone to appear cloudy and to lose its sparkle and luster. To clean your stone take an ultra-soft toothbrush and make a warm soapy mixture using distilled water and a mild soap. Gently scrub your stone clean paying special attention to the stone and the surrounding setting. When you feel your stone is adequately clean, use distilled water to rinse your stone and then dry with a soft cloth.
Symbology of Tanzanite
Tanzanite is often called a “stone of magic”. It is believed that it helps the wearer on a quest towards spiritual awareness and insight.
It is also known as the “Workaholics stone” because it increases relaxation and aids the user in slowing down and taking it easy. This stone can also help relieve stress and depression and often helps to enhance to balance, harmony, and peacefulness. Tanzanite is also believed to be connected to the third eye chakra located directly in the center of the forehead.
So the verdict…
Whether you are purchasing tanzanite for yourself or someone else, it is an incredibly valuable and poignant stone to own. The value of a tanzanite will never decrease and its beauty is timeless and classic. Why not get your hands on one of these wonders of nature before they’re all gone?