One of the Newest and Bluest of Gems... Tanzanite is the "new kid on the block" of the gemstone kingdom. Discovered in Tanzania in 1967 and introduced to the American market in 1969, tanzanite has catapulted to incredible popularity in a very short amount of time. It was named in honor of the country in which it was found and introduced in the United States for the first time by Tiffany & Co. Available in colors ranging from blue to violet to purple, few gems can rival tanzanites depth of hue and purity of color.
Tanzanite owes much of its beauty to an unusual gemological property called pleochroism, the ability to exhibit more than one color. When viewed from different directions, tanzanite can look blue, violet, purple, bronze or gray. Before a tanzanite is faceted, the gemstone cutter studies the crystal and decides which directional orientation will show the best color. Most cutters will try to produce a pure blue tanzanite, but cutting to achieve a blue color sacrifices a lot of weight and results in a smaller and more costly finished gem. Yet the blue of a well-cut tanzanite is so breathtaking that most agree the sacrifice is well worth it. Tanzanite shows its strongest colors in sizes of 4 to 5 carats and larger. Smaller tanzanites are usually soft blue, light violet or lilac purple.
Tanzanite is sometimes used as an alternate for the traditional December birthstones turquoise and zircon.
Tanzanite is mined in only one location in the world, the Merelani Hills of Tanzania, in eastern Africa.
Virtually all tanzanite is gently heated to bring out its rich blue, violet and purple hues. Heating also minimizes the gems bronze or brownish tones.
Tanzanite is a relatively hard gemstone, but it is not equally durable. Tanzanite may chip or break if exposed to moderate blows or sudden changes in temperature. It is best suited for wear in earrings and pendants. When mounted in a ring or bracelet, special attention should be paid to ensure the stone is well-protected. Tanzanite should never be cleaned with an ultrasonic or steam machine. Tanzanite can be cleaned with most any commercial jewelry cleaner or plain soap and warm water using a soft brush. Be sure to rinse and dry thoroughly after cleaning.
Photo: Robert Weldon, Copyright Professional Jeweler Magazine
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