Stone to Gem

Raw Tanzanite

Raw Tanzanite. Photo by Wela49

Tanzanite comes from Tanzania, which is where it got its name. More specifically, it comes from the hills of Mount Kilimanjaro which is located in the north of Tanzania. This is the only place where one can find Tanzanite in its raw form.

A more romanticized, if at least partly credible, story about the origin of the tanzanite stone can be found in a legend about how a tremendous lightning struck the mountain and the crystals found on the ground turned blue. Maasai men picked up the stones after they cooled down and it brought them success and a better life. Before the heating process, tanzanite stone is burgundy/brown in colour, and it is only after being heated that the extraordinary blue/violet colour comes out.

Nonetheless there is some truth to the legend in that no one, not even experts in geography, can explain how tanzanite came to be. For many geologists, the tanzanite stone is a “geographical miracle.” It shouldn’t be there, but it is. The fact that there is no other place in the world where one can find the raw tanzanite is puzzling. Thus, it is considered by many to be even more precious than diamonds. According to experts, at the current rate of mining, tanzanite stones will run out in 10 years.

The Tanzanite Process

Like many of the hotels in Durban, Tanzanite is definitely a gem. The Tanzanite stone is a mineral and considered as a “soft” gem because it is not brittle like the emerald. It has to go through a heating process to bring out its lustre. However, the heating process is done at a relatively low temperature because it already has gone through a natural heating process from its location. The heat only stabilizes the stone but does not alter its chemical make-up.

Just like precious stones, the tanzanite stone has a grading system. It follows the Four Cs: Cut, Colour, Clarity, and Carat. However, aside from these grades, it is also possible to end up with a fake tanzanite stone. To distinguish a genuine tanzanite gem, have it appraised and buy only from reputable dealers. You will also see a description with every Tanzanite gem that looks either like “vB” or “Bv.” This refers to the predominant colour wherein “vB” means the stone is more blue than violet.

How the Tanzanite Gem is Set

The tanzanite stone is set in different ways and considering that it is a soft gem, the setting can only be done by a professional. The different settings possible are using a claw, tension, pave, channel, tube, or rub over. It is not advisable to either put pressure on the gem, or allow any kind of steel instrument to touch it. All experts use a plasticized tool or even beeswax. Also, direct and extreme heat will damage the stone and its value.

As a finished and refined gem, the tanzanite gemstone is used for earrings, as a pendant, or in a ring. Very rarely can it be used as an accent to another precious gem because its brilliance and colours can outshine the main gem. The most commonly used combination with tanzanite is the diamond, found in South Africa.