Natural vs. Synthetic Tanzanite
Tanzanite is one of the rarest gems. Because it is only found in a single place on Earth, it is thought to be one-thousand times rarer than diamonds. Northern Tanzania is the only source of these blue and purple gems. Vivid blue is the most valuable, followed by rich purple. You can incorporate tanzanite stone in either of these colors into gorgeous tanzanite jewelry, including rings, earrings, and even tanzanite engagement rings. December birthdays are especially fond of Tanzanite jewelry as it is the month's birthstone.
Unfortunately, geologists estimate that natural Tanzanite could be depleted within the next twenty years.
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A Beautiful Alternative - Synthetic Tanzanites
Fortunately, scientists have figured out how to create a gorgeous look alike. Synthetic Tanzanite isn't exactly a true synthetic (i.e., an exact copy), but it is a very good imitation. The stone is actually Forsterite. For something to be synthetic or synthesized, it must have the same chemical and physical properties as the original, which is why some individuals only refer to non-real Tanzanite as imitation and not synthetic.
Natural Tanzanite formed 585 million years ago in a complex geological environment exposed to extreme heat and pressure. It took tectonic plate movement, heating, and pressurizing igneous rock to form very unique crystals. Therefore, scientists haven't been able to accurately recreate the process in a lab.
However, Forsterite has been produced in Russia and looks quite similar to purple Tanzanite. In some cases, Cubic Zirconia, Synthetic Spinel, and Yttrium Aluminum Garnet have all been marketed as a blue tanzanite imitation. Of course, these synthetics aren't as popular as rare, natural Tanzanite. However, due to its scarcity, Tanzanite often demands a high price, and synthetics can be much more budget-friendly.
Natural Tanzanite vs. Synthetic Tanzanite - What's the Difference?
We mentioned that natural Tanzanite is formed in a complex process involving the minerals zoisite and vanadium. The process and chemical makeup hasn't yet been able to be replicated in a lab. So, synthetic Tanzanite is made from different materials.
Such as Forsterite, a type of garnet, coranite, and cubic zirconia. Colored glass has been used to create imitation tanzanite in some cases, though we don't recommend it. In most cases, the color isn't an exact match to mined Tanzanite. Additionally, not all of these materials will be as durable as natural Tanzanite. Synthetic or imitation Tanzanite tends to be less refractive.
Spotting the Difference Between Natural and Synthetic Tanzanite
Refractivity is perhaps the easiest way to spot synthetic or imitation Tanzanite. Natural tanzanite stone has a refractive index of 1.685-1.707, while Forsterite has a refractive index of 1.63-1.67. A tool called a refractometer will help gemologists deduce this. Another tool called a Hannerman Filter will show Foresterite as green while natural Tanzanite appears as pinkish-orange.
Without these tools, you can perform the following checks to deduce if your Tanzanite is natural.
- Change your angle. Tanzanites are pleochroic, meaning their color can change when viewed from different angles. It may be synthetic if your stone does not show slight color differences when viewed from various sides.
- Try a different light. Different lights can also affect its pleochroism. If you view your tanzanite stone in natural and incandescent light and don't notice a change in the hue of blue vs. purple, it may be synthetic.
- Look through a loupe. A jeweler's loupe can help you view the small but typical inclusions found in natural Tanzanite. An utterly flawless stone could indicate that your Tanzanite is not genuine.
- Check for light refraction/reflection. Imitation tanzanite will often look dull compared to authentic Tanzanite because the natural version has such a high refractive index. Shallow sparkle caused by low refraction is a sign of imitation tanzanite.
If you're set on purchasing only authentic Tanzanite, jeweler tools like a Hanneman filter or a loupe can be a valuable investment. However, the angle or light test may work well enough if you don't mind imitation tanzanite.
Care Tips for Tanzanite
Whether you have synthetic or authentic Tanzanite, taking care of your gem will help it stay brilliant and sparkling for longer. Natural Tanzanite is decently soft, especially when compared to diamonds. Similarly, imitations can be less durable than other gemstones. Protective mountings in settings and being cautious while wearing your tanzanite jewelry can help prevent chips or nicks. Additionally, the following tips may help:
- Avoid harsh chemicals. Tanzanite shouldn't be exposed to harsh chemicals either to clean the jewelry itself or while you're completing other tasks.
- Don't expose it to sudden temperature changes. Swift temperature changes can damage your stone, as can extreme heat.
- Use warm soapy water to clean. You can use warm water with dish soap to clean your tanzanite jewelry. A soft cloth can help to remove fingerprints.
- Don't use an Ultrasonic cleaner. Ultrasonic or steam jewelry cleaners can be too harsh and too hot for Tanzanite.
- Consider re-polishing. Tanzanite stones can be prone to scratches; a jeweler may be able to re-polish your Tanzanite to revive its sparkle.
- Store your Tanzanite by itself. Storing your tanzanite jewelry in its own pouch or box will prevent other jewelry pieces from rubbing up against it and scratching the gem's surface.
Don't wear your Tanzanite while gardening, working on machines, or doing other hands-on labor. Being careful with your gem and taking proper precautions will help extend its beauty.
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Is Tanzanite a birthstone?
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