The Story of Tanzanite - The Rare and Beautiful Gemstone

by Vidya Lakshmi October 04, 2020 4 min read

tanzanite

Hey Beautiful People!

We’re back again with a super interesting story. We know you’ll love this!

So if you’re like us, we know how fascinated you’d be about stories behind popular gemstones and how they were actually discovered. So today we decided to dig up all the history we can about the second rarest gemstone in the world - Tanzanite.  As the name suggests, it is named after Tanzania, the country where it was discovered and the only place where it can be found. So here are some things you probably didn’t know about Tanzanite.

The Discovery of Tanzanite

So Tanzanite is said to have been discovered by chance in 1967 by a tailor, Mr. Manuel D’Souza who was actually looking for Sapphire in the Northeastern parts of Tanzania. The natives took him to a region in the Merelani Hills where he found these blue gemstones. He initially thought they were Sapphire but later he discovered they were different.  He had sent samples of the stones to John Saul, an MIT Geologist back then. That’s kind of how he came to know that they were not Sapphire. He began mining these unknown gems coz he somehow knew they could fetch him a fortune. 

tanzanite gem

Image Source : Didier Descouens / CC BY

Mr. D’Souza is considered to have discovered the gems because he was the first person to start mining them and actually spread the word about them. But legends have it that they were truly discovered by the Masai - an ethnic group who live in Tanzania when their grasslands caught fire coz of a lightning strike. After the fire was put out, they returned to see blue stones all over the ground.

The Growth and Popularity of Tanzanite

The geologist we talked about earlier had actually given the gem samples to his father Mr. Hyman Saul, who did the real testing. Mr. Hyman then showed these stones to the vice-president of Tiffany and Company back then. Tiffany and Company named it Tanzanite and began a huge marketing campaign to introduce it to the people.  As a result of this campaign, it quickly became popular. In the 20th century, it was one of the best selling gemstones in the industry. Even though it was discovered only in the 1960’s it was still considered most popular after the “Big Four” - Diamonds, Emeralds, Rubies, and Sapphires, which were around for centuries. 

tanzanite jewelry

Image Source : gemteck1 from Seattle, Washington, USA / CC BY 

It is said to be one of the best discoveries in the gemstone industry because, within a very short while, it achieved worldwide popularity and demand, thanks to Tiffany and Company. It is also a pleochroic gem which means it reflects different colors ranging from blues to deep purples from different angles. 

Another intriguing thing to note is that Mr. D’Souza is said to have been murdered in a car accident around this time, on August 21, 1969, which had interrupted the supply of the gems for nearly two years back then. 

Superstitions

There’s not much history apart from this about the stone because it hasn’t been around for that long. There’s not much superstition about it either unlike the other popular gemstones. However, in Tanzania, it was believed that new mothers should wear blue colored clothes and jewelry to bring health and positivity to their babies. This custom had been going on for centuries but after Tanzanite was discovered, the people believed, it would give the same benefits too. It is now considered one of the birthstones of December borns. 

How It is Priced

It is definitely cheaper than a diamond but the price does vary a little. It could be cheaper or expensive based on the number of carats. And it also depends on the jeweler you’re buying it from. The cost of Tanzanite will also depend significantly on the rarity, the color, and the gem’s clarity. 

Some More Interesting Facts About Tanzanite

  • It's considered a thousand times rarer than diamonds
  • It measures from 6 to 7 on Mohs Scale of hardness which is quite an average level 
  • The gem is considered blue but due to it's pleochroic nature, it can reflect purples, dark reds or even yellowish tones from different angles
  • It's said to have been formed 585 million years ago
  • Since it is quite rare and short in supply, it is slowly coming to be heirloom
  • It is also said to be the most beautiful gem to have been discovered in two thousand years

According to geologists, the chances of finding Tanzanite in any other part of the world are one in a million which actually made it the second rarest gem in the world. It is also called The Gemstone of A Generation because it is estimated that the current supply will be used up in the next 25 years. This means the current generation will be the only ones who’d be able to buy them from the primary market. 

That’s about everything we know about Tanzanite and the story behind its discovery. Hope you enjoyed reading it and do let us know if you’d like to read more stories like these. We’ll be back soon with another interesting post. So stay tuned for that. 

In the meantime, why don’t you have a look at some of our newest jewelry?

Rosa Necklace

Monarch Necklace

Yara Drop Earrings

Bye for now. 


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