The enchanting Tanzanite is one of the birthstones for lucky December babies, along with Zircon, Turquoise and Blue Topaz. These four stones are powerful and exquisite but we will focus on the relative new comer to the Gem world, Tanzanite. Tanzanite is noted for its remarkably strong trichroism, appearing alternately sapphire blue, violet and burgundy depending on the crystals orientation, cut and lighting. In 2002, the American Gem Trade Association chose Tanzanite as a December birthstone, the first change to their birthstone list since 1912.
The most common story of the Tanzanite discovery is the following. In 1967, a Masai tribesman Ali Juuyawatu is credited with finding a cluster of highly transparent, intense blue crystals in Merelani, an area of northern Tanzania, near Mount Kilimanjaro. He alerted a local fortune hunter named Manuel d’Souza, who quickly registered four mining claims.
D’Souza hoped that he’d been shown a new Sapphire deposit. Instead, the deposit contained one of the world’s newest gems.
Within a short time, 90 more claims appeared in the same 20-square-mile area in a mad scramble. No one was quite sure what the beautiful crystals were, but everyone wanted to lay claim to the profits they were certain to produce. The new gem would eventually be known as Tanzanite, and it would, at times, rival the Big 4 in popularity.
In the early 1970s Henry Platt, then President of Tiffany’s, was shown blue zoisite. Feeling the name zoisite would not be appealing to women he christened blue zoisite with the name Tanzanite after the country of origin. Henry Platt rightfully declared tanzanite to be “the most beautiful blue gemstone to be discovered in 2000 years.”
The instant popularity of this transparent blue to violet to purple gem was tied to its vivid colour, high clarity, and potential for large cut stones.