Tanzanite Meaning and Properties

Tanzanite History

Rarer than diamonds and almost as famous, tanzanite has skyrocketed in popularity like a starlet in Hollywood in the short 50 years since its discovery. Yet, unlike the diamond which is plentiful in Africa and Russia, tanzanite mines are predicted to run dry roughly around 2022, giving this gem all the more desire and intrigue.

Tanzanite is an exquisite form of zoisite with color ranges from ultramarine to sapphire blue and appears with amethyst and sometimes even yellow hues in artificial light. An otherwise unappealing brown stone, the in-demand blue is created during a traditional heating process. It is often mistaken for sapphire, but the main difference between the two gems is tanzanite's brilliant range of purple and blue hues.

Tanzanite Metaphysical Properties

Tanzanite is commonly believed to facilitate a higher consciousness and stimulate intuition and perception. Some believe that it aids in detoxifying the body and improving vitality. It is said to be a good stone to wear or have near in situations where you need a calming and soothing presence. Although, because of the high vibration rate of the stone, some believe the stone can be a stimulant to the throat and head and preserve youthfulness.

Another popular belief is that--because it takes intense heat to bring forth this stone's full potential--it also has the ability to bring forth the wearers' full potential and help them get in touch with the alternate side of their personality.

Tanzanite Geological Properties

The blue and violet colors associated with the gem are created by heating cut and polished stones to 752-932 degrees Fahrenheit (400-500 degrees Celsius). Since the zoisite crystals appear as common brown pebbles before being treated, the gemstone went undiscovered until 1962 when lightning caused a brushfire which--by a stroke of fortune--heated some surfaced pebbles to the right temperature. A local Masai cattle herder noticed a stone sparkling in the sun soon after, and tanzanite was discovered. Once the stone reached New York Jewelers Tiffany and Co, it was named "tanzanite" after its country of origin and began its climb to fame.

One would think from the short supply of the stone that the gem would be one of the most expensive. Yet, short sighted in the excitement of this stone's discovery, mine owners and jewelers have never properly priced the worth per carat of the stone, which explains the range in prices.

Tanzanite occurs only in the East African state of Tanzania in a volcanic basin called Merlani. The basin is at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in the African Rift Valley, a wide grassy basin used by Masai cattle herders to raise and watch their herds. The mining area for this stone is just under 10 square miles. The gem was formed roughly 585 million years ago at the same time the African Rift Valley was formed and is found in geological structures called boudins.

Mineral Information Calcium aluminum silicate, may include iron or manganese
Chemical Composition Ca2Al3(O/OH/SiO4/Si2O7)
Color Purple-blue
Hardness 6-1/2 to 7 (Mohs)
Specific Gravity 3.35
Refractive Index 1.691 - 1.700

Proper Care of Tanzanite

The beautiful violet tones of tanzanite are formed by a traditional heating process, so this gem should not be exposed to sudden temperature changes of either extreme heat or cold. However, the color is not affected by strong light. Ultrasonic cleaners, steam cleaners, and boiling may damage the stone or affect the color and should never be used. Instead, use warm soapy water, allow to air dry and polish with an untreated cloth. Avoid using hydrochloric or hydrofluoric acids.

Although tanzanite is a hard stone (Mohs hardness 6-1/2 to 7), it should still be handled like the rare gem that it is. If you struggle to avoid bumping or scraping your jewelry throughout the day, consider earrings as a safe option for displaying this gem. Avoid laying your tanzanite jewelry face down on hard surfaces after you take it off.

To learn more about tanzanite and other gemstones, order your copy of Walter Schumann's revised and expanded edition of Gemstones of the World.

Designing with Tanzanite

Because of the rarity of this gem, its association has become one of elegance and indulgence. Pair beautiful tanzanite with sterling silver chain, pearls and gently contrasting pink stones such as rose quartz, tourmaline, and rhodonite for an uncommonly tasteful look. Sterling silver tassel earrings with tanzanite beads and cultured freshwater pearls hanging from the end of each strand would present just the right amount of sparkle and glamour.

For a more approachable and fun look, create a multi-strand necklace from strings of white seed beads with pieces of tanzanite chips and pale rose quartz beads intermittent throughout the strands.

View more resources featuring tanzanite, including Design Ideas, Videos, Tutorials and more!

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