Tanzanite was only discovered in 1967 and yet it is one of the world’s most sought-after gemstones. Most other popular gems have long histories, superstitions and traditions, or famous examples worn by royalty, that help to explain why they are so desirable. How does a gem like Tanzanite compete with that?
Tanzanite is both very beautiful and rare, two of the factors that have traditionally made a gemstone desirable. Intelligent marketing has also created a sense of history and romance around the stone, helping it to hold its own against the long-standing fame of sapphire, rubies and emeralds.
One of the most famous facts about Tanzanite is that it is only sourced from one location on Earth, in the hills surrounding Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The initial discovery was made by a local Masai tribesman and when it was discovered that the beautiful violet-blue crystal he had found was a new gem variety not seen anywhere before there was a flood of interest. The famous jeweller Tiffany and Co. quickly realised the potential of this new discovery and struck a deal to become the principal distributor and promoter of the gem. They also gave it its famous name, choosing Tanzanite in honour of its place of discovery.
Tiffany launched Tanzanite onto the world market in 1968 with extensive publicity emphasising the stone’s beauty and rarity. They called it "the loveliest blue gemstone discovered in over 2,000 years” and said that it was found in only two places: Tanzania and Tiffany’s. The exotic source of the gem played an important role in the company’s advertising with images of Mount Kilimanjaro and of the local wildlife providing the backdrop to pieces of Tanzanite jewellery.
The campaign was a huge success and Tanzanite quickly became a major seller for the company. Fifty years later the gem is now found in jewellery stores across the world, although it is still only sourced in Tanzania. It is thought to be extremely unlikely that it will ever be found anywhere else due to the complex combination of ingredients and environmental conditions required for Tanzanite to form. This makes Tanzanite much rarer than other major gemstones such as diamond or sapphire, that are mined in many locations across the world. Much is made by retailers of the fact that Tanzanite is ‘running out’ and although it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen in the future, it is true that when the current mines stop producing there is no alternative source.
The stunning colour of Tanzanite is created from a unique blend of violet and blue. More vivid, velvety shades are particularly desirable and fetch much higher prices than the paler lavender hues, although Tanzanite is a gem that can be attractive in a wide range of tones, both light and dark. Whether blue or violet is the dominant hue depends on how an individual stone is cut; by viewing a stone from different directions you will normally be able to see both colours. Tanzanite will also change slightly when viewed under different light sources, with daylight often bringing out the blue and incandescent light favouring the violet. These beautiful effects are caused by the way the Tanzanite crystal interacts with light. Coupled with the fantastic clarity of most Tanzanites and the availability of material in large sizes, the incredible colours it displays provide the most significant reason for the popularity of the stone.
In 2002 Tanzanite was added to the official birthstone list as one of the gems for December. Inclusion as a birthstone plays an important role in bringing Tanzanite to more customers and building a tradition around the stone. It reflects the existing popularity of Tanzanite as well as giving it yet another reason to be desirable!
You can view a selection of our Tanzanite jewellery on our website or visit our showroom to see more. Our team of gemmologists and jewellers can answer any questions you may have and help you find your perfect piece of this beautiful and rare gemstone.