Gemstones, Birthstones, Gemstone Jewelry

Loose Gemstones


Birthstone Tanzanite History

Tanzanites – History and Lore


The newest member in gemstone family, tanzanite is one of the most sought-after stones of 21st century. Since its discovery, the gem has been highly cherished for its beauty and the way it was discovered. It is a member of zoisite family and coined the name tanzanite after its country of origin- Tanzania.

Tanzanite was discovered accidentally by a prospector named Manuel D'Souza when he was searching sapphires in the Merelani Hills in Tanzania. Going with the legends, Masai tribesmen in Mount Kilimanjro were the first to discover the gemstone. When a forest fire after the lightning strikes was over, the tribesmen discovered some extremely brilliant blue-purple stones in the foothills of the mountain. When D'Souza came in search of sapphires in this region, which was around 90 km from his home town of Arusha, he was taken by the tribesmen in the area where they found the stone. Manuel, who was originally from India soon discovered stone, is not a sapphire. So he staked a claim with the government and started mining. Thus, he discovered the stone of the century in 1967.

He contacted with Tiffany & Co. and showed the sample to Henry Platt of Tiffany and Co., who was so thrilled with the samples that he immediately joined hands with D'Souza in mining and marketing the gem. Henry introduced the gem to the world in 1969 as Tanzanite - the most important gemstone discovery of the century. An estimated two million carats of tanzanite were mined between 1967 and 1972. Later, the government of Tanzania nationalized the mines.

Tiffany's exhaustive marketing made the stone a star in the gemstone and jewelry world. Moreover, within a short span of just 47 years the stone, today, is one of the most desired option for fine and fashion jewelry. Tanzanite has its own color grading system introduced by Tanzanite foundation. This grading system divides the colors into various hues ranging between violet blue and blue violet.

As this is a newly introduced stone, there are not much folklore and legends about this gem yet it has many interesting facts that add significant value to tanzanite.

• Tanzanite gems are 585 million years old.

• It is the first stone added to the official birthstone list since 1952. In October 2002, American National Association of Jewelers added tanzanite as a birthstone for December.

• It is 1000 times rarer than diamonds. Tanzanite is available only at one place in the world – Tanzania’s Merelani Hills.

• The stone is available only for a generation. The resources are already depleted and there is only a little amount of tanzanite left in the mines.

• Tanzanite is dull brown in its raw form, which up on heating over 400 degree Celsius turns to brilliant blue violet.

• It has a remarkable property of changing color in different lights. The stone exhibits trichroism that means the color could change to blue violet or lavender depending on the source and path of light.

• The largest faceted tanzanite in the world weighs 737.81 carats.

• ‘Queen of Kilimanjaro’ is another famous large tanzanite, which weighs 242 carats. It is set in a tiara with 803 brilliant cut tsavorite garnet and 913 brilliant cut diamond accents.