Tanzanite History

Introduction to Tanzanites

Tanzanite is one of the most intriguing gemstones on our planet. Tanzanite was only recently discovered, unlike most other gemstones that have been around for centuries. Despite being a modern gemstone, tanzanite quickly became a major part of the gemstone world. Since then, the popularity of this blue gemstone has only increased. Tanzanite is considered to be the second most popular and most beautiful blue gemstone in the world, after sapphire.

Since Tanzanite is only found in one country, Tanzania, it is a rare gem. This adds to its value and popularity. Since 2002, it has been known as the December birthstone, which increased the demand and worth of this gemstone even more. Tanzanite is often called “a geological phenomenon” due to how it was created. Continue reading to find out everything you need to know about the history of tanzanite.

The History and Discovery of Tanzanite

Tanzanite was first discovered in 1967 when a Masai tribesman found a cluster of the intense blue and violet gemstone now known as tanzanite. Once he realized that he stumbled upon something special, he let Manuel d’Souza know, who was a fortune hunter in Northern Tanzania.

Once d’Souza saw the gemstone himself, he immediately registered a total of 4 mining claims for this stone. At the time, neither of these men knew what the stone was, they just knew it was beautiful and would have value. D’Souza was hoping that the gem would be sapphire, due to the vivid blue color of the gem. Instead, was a surprise to him when he found out his mining claims contained a newer gemstone, one the world hadn’t seen before.

Popularity of Tanzanite

Very quickly after that, 90 other mining claims showed up within 20 square miles of the original area this gem was found. None of these people registering the claims knew what the crystal was yet, but they all wanted to be a part of it. They were certain this newfound gem would be valuable and bring them profit.

Tiffany & Company was the first large company to fully grasp the potential of this gemstone, which was then called blue zoisite. They named the gemstone tanzanite after Tanzania, the country where it was discovered. Tiffany & Company became the main distributor of this gem. They promoted it in 1968 with a campaign to educate the public on what this new gemstone was. Immediately after that, tanzanite blew up. Jewelry designers wanted it, and anyone who was into beautiful crystals and gemstones wanted a piece of this newfound gemstone for themselves.

It wasn’t hard for tanzanite to gain popularity virtually overnight with its stunning appearance. It’s a transparent gem, coming in all shades of blue and violet. The colors are vivid, have high clarity, and can be cut into very large pieces.

Formation of Tanzanite

Despite not being discovered until the 1960s, tanzanite is estimated to have been formed 585 million years ago. Deep at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, there was major tectonic plate activity and extreme heat. It created the Mozambique Orogenic Belt, which is extremely mineral-rich. This is when tanzanite was believed to have been formed.

The colliding tectonic plates got morphed into each other from the intense pressure. Due to the extreme heat, they almost melted, but not quite. This process of almost melting caused the rocks to produce gorgeous crystals and gemstones. The tectonic plates are always unique to the area, so whatever minerals they have at the time of collision are what form the gemstones. This is why tanzanite is so rare - the process happened only once millions of years ago, and it will likely never happen again.

Natural Tanzanites vs. Lab-Created Tanzanites

As of today, there is no such thing as lab-created tanzanite. No one has been able to successfully create a lab-grown version of this gemstone which has the same chemical and physical properties as natural tanzanite.

However, synthetic Forsterite has recently been produced, which is the closest thing to lab-grown tanzanite. It does closely resemble the blue gemstone, but it’s not identical. Forsterite also only resembles lower grades of tanzanite and not any higher grades. If you ever see a seller advertising something as lab-created or synthetic tanzanite, be weary, because it does not exist.

The Future of Tanzanite

Since tanzanite is only found in one spot on earth, the Mererani hills, it won’t be around forever. The deposits could be completely depleted in just a couple of decades. Scientists have stated that there’s only a one in one million chance of tanzanite ever being created again on our earth. This makes tanzanite a very valuable gemstone to have.


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