Tanzanite-Birthstone of a Generation

Tanzanite, that beautiful violet-blue gemstone with the interesting history, doesn’t seem that rare.  Most jewelry stores have at least a few pieces.  Most consumers recognize the name, tanzanite, and can’t remember when it wasn’t available.  But we are actually the lucky “generation” to have this precious gem.  Going to the store and buying a new piece of tanzanite jewelry will probably not be an option for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  

The history begins back in the late 1960s, when the blue-purple variety of the mineral, zoisite, was first discovered.  Found in the Merelani Hills of Tanzania, near Mount Kilimanjaro, the gem quickly gained the attention of Tiffany’s president, Henry Platt.  It was Tiffany & Co. that named the gem, Tanzanite, and began marketing it in 1968.  The popularity of the gemstone grew over the next few decades and, in 2002, Tanzanite became an official birthstone for December.  It also is the gemstone for the 24th wedding anniversary.  

Most gemstones are found in various places on Earth.  But the geological circumstances that allow tanzanite to form are very rare and have only been found in the Merelani Hills.  All the mines are located within eight square miles!  A big reason for this is that vanadium, the trace element responsible for the violet-blue color, is not a common element.  And it was very rare during the formation time of tanzanite.  Another reason for tanzanite’s rarity is that only in this one location has erosion of the Earth’s surface tipped the scales enough to allow the continental crust, where the gems were formed, to be pushed up by the oceanic crust.  Bringing the gemstones closer to the Earth’s surface has allowed mining to be profitable. 

For how much longer will mining be profitable?  In the early 2000’s money was invested in understanding the conditions ripe for tanzanite.  Mining became more efficient and production increased.  Recent reports, however, point out that mines have to go deeper to find more tanzanite.  At some point, the cost of mining will be prohibitive.  When production slows and the jewelry industry can’t count on a steady supply, it will look to other, more available, gems.  This may lead to a downward spiral of demand and supply for tanzanite.

You are part of the “generation” that can still go to your favorite jewelry store and buy this beautiful gem.  Unless some other deposit is discovered, future generations will have to buy previously owned tanzanite.  So, if you love tanzanite, don’t delay in getting your special piece of it.

Our pieces of tanzanite, currently in stock

 

 

Born in December? Lucky You!

december birthstones

Birthdays in December often take a back seat to all the holiday celebrations.  Red and green seem to dominate the landscape.  More Christmas cookies are consumed than birthday cake.  But those of you born in December are very lucky to have some amazing blue birthstones to choose from–Blue Zircon, Turquoise, Tanzanite, and Blue Topaz.  With so many choices, there is no reason to feel deprived.

Zircon is a gem stone which comes in a wide range of colors.  The most popular color is blue.  Some zircons are so electric looking as to be almost neon.  They have this great ability to refract light, so the stone’s color just seems to jump out at you.  A lot of people get zircon confused with cubic zirconia, which is a manmade stone used as a substitute for diamonds.  Zircon is a completely natural stone.  It is often heat treated, as many gem stones are, to enhance the color and improve the clarity.  But it is not lab grown.  It’s mined in many places, including Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Madagascar.

If you want a birthstone that is mined in the United States, turquoise is your choice.  A lot of turquoise is mined in Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada.  Turquoise is often named for the mine it came from, so you’ll hear about Sleeping Beauty, Kingman, or Carico Lake turquoise.  Generally light to dark blue or green, with or without matrix, this opaque gem stone is sometimes dyed to improve its color.   Stabilizing material may be used, since turquoise is a relatively soft stone.  Ask your jeweler if you want to know about possible enhancements.

Tanzanite is the youngster of all gem stones.  Discovered near Mt. Kilimanjaro in the 1960s, Tanzanite is the fancy name Tiffany & Co. gave to the mineral, Zoisite.  I guess I can’t blame them.  Wouldn’t you rather buy something exotic-sounding  than scientific-sounding?  It’s a pleochroic gem, meaning that it shows more than one color at a time.  You can see blue, purple, and violet.  Almost all tanzanite is heat treated to improve its color, since most of it comes out of the ground brown.  There is only one known source for Tanzanite, and it’s in Tanzania.

Both Zircon and Tanzanite are fairly expensive gemstones, especially in large sizes.  A great alternative is Blue Topaz.  Topaz is mined on most continents, including South America, North America, Asia, and Europe.  The gem stone is generally heated after irradiation to produce the blue color.  Natural blue topaz is relatively rare.  Most topaz is pale yellow, gray, or colorless.  With enhancement, different shades of blue are possible–Sky, Swiss, and London.  Sky blue is the palest and London blue is the darkest.

So all you December “babies”, cheer up!!  Life is good.  Especially if you get one of these beautiful blue gemstones for your birthday.  We have examples of all four at Dearborn Jewelers.  Stop by and see them!

december birthstone2