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If you’re weighing your options on which blue gemstone is the best, no doubt you’ve considered tanzanite and sapphire. These two are the most popular of all blue gemstones, and each has its own pros and cons.
Tanzanites and sapphires look very similar in appearance and it can be difficult to tell the two apart without some knowledge. In fact, tanzanite has often been mistaken for being a sapphire. However, in every other way, these two stones are very different from each other.
Let’s explore the differences between tanzanite and sapphire and check out which stone we think is better!
Tanzanite vs. Sapphire – Origin and History
Sapphire is a very popular gemstone that has been valued and used in jewelry for centuries. It has been associated with the upper echelons of society, including Royals and the clergy. Sapphire is made of the mineral corundum and is found in only a few regions in the world, with some of the most famous sapphire mining locations being Sri Lanka, Burma and Kashmir. Gem quality blue sapphire is quite rare.
Tanzanite, on the other hand, is a new gemstone. It was discovered relatively recently, in the sixties, and named after the country it was found in – Tanzania. Tanzanite is made of the mineral zoisite and is extremely rare in nature. While tanzanite does not have the long and glamorous history of sapphires, it has quickly established itself as one of the top ten bestselling colored gemstones.
Winner of this round: We vote sapphire for its long and renowned history.
Tanzanite vs. Sapphire – Rarity
In case you were wondering, both these gemstones are much rarer than diamonds. Gem quality blue sapphires are rare in nature and extremely in demand. However, the natural supply of sapphires is much more abundant than those of tanzanite.
Tanzanite is found in only one region of Tanzania (at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro) and is about 1000 times rarer than diamonds! The natural stores of tanzanite are depleting and are estimated to run out in the next few decades. This is why the stone is called a ‘geological phenomenon’ as the chances of another tanzanite mine being found are roughly 1 million to 1.
Winner of this round: Tanzanite by far because it is the ‘one generation’ gemstone.
Tanzanite vs Sapphire – Color
Sapphire is easily the most famous blue gemstone, so much so that most people don’t even know it comes in every color of the rainbow (except for red, which is known as ruby). High-quality blue sapphire has a rich, deep hue.
Tanzanite colors are mainly blue and purple. The color of high-quality tanzanite can equal that of sapphires and it can be difficult to tell the two apart. Tanzanite is also a pleochroic gemstone, meaning that it can display different colors depending on the angle at which it is viewed, most commonly blue and violet. Vivid blue is the best and most valuable tanzanite color.
Winner of this round: Both have spectacular color
Tanzanite vs. Sapphire – Hardness and Durability
This is where sapphire reigns. Sapphire ranks 9 on the Mohs scale, and is the third most durable gemstone used in jewelry, after diamonds and moissanite. It is not easily damaged or scratched and is excellent for everyday wear. This is part of the allure of using sapphires in engagement rings.
Tanzanite, on the other hand, is a much softer gemstone, ranking only 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale, making it even softer than quartz (a main ingredient in dust). Tanzanite can easily be scratched and damaged and has poor toughness and cleavage, meaning that it can break if struck. For engagement rings, tanzanite is not recommended unless mounted in a secure setting and maintained with special care.
Winner of this round: Sapphire trumps tanzanite here as it is harder and tougher.
Tanzanite vs. Sapphire – Value and Price
Although tanzanite is the rarer of the two, blue sapphire is more in demand. All else being equal, sapphire is considerably more expensive than tanzanite. It is also often considered a good investment gemstone, as the prices of colored gemstones increase due to demand. There are synthetic versions of sapphire on the market, which are more affordable, but these are not very valuable or highly regarded.
All tanzanite found on the market is natural, as the stone has not yet been successfully synthesized. Tanzanite is a great option if you want the sapphire look but not the high price tag. It is also an excellent collector’s item due to its rarity and has been called ‘the gemstone investment opportunity of our generation’. It is predicted that once tanzanite has been mined out, prices will rise so getting your hands on them while you can seems like a good idea.
Winner of this round: Tanzanite is more affordable than sapphires and has good investment potential.
Tanzanite vs. Sapphire – Status and Reputation
Sapphire has always had a royal connection, and was frequently worn by Royals and the clergy throughout history. It is noteworthy that the world’s most famous engagement ring is the iconic blue sapphire ring of Princess Diana, worn now by Kate Middleton. It is the most recognizable blue gemstone and among the most expensive.
Tanzanite cannot compete with this status because it is a recent addition to gemstones. However, it does have the reputation of being the most beautiful stone discovered in the last 2000 years! And due to its rarity, it is getting more known in the jewelry world as a gemstone to purchase before the primary sources run out.
Winner of this round: Sapphire is more popular and has a higher status than tanzanite in general society.
The final verdict…
Both sapphires and tanzanite have their individual charms. The gemstone you choose depends on the reason for your purchase. If durability is a priority, then sapphire is the better choice. It is also more recognized, valued and increasing in demand.
Tanzanite is a beautiful and more affordable option, and has very good investment potential but is not as durable as sapphire. As you can see, both are very different stones, and both are appealing in their own way.
Looking to add a tanzanite or a sapphire to your jewelry collection? For pink and blue sapphires for a range of budgets, check out James Allen. Blue Nile also has beautiful collections of tanzanite and blue sapphire jewelry at reasonable prices.