Celebrating December’s Birthstone
Maasai traditions associate the color blue with new life, so it is only fitting that tanzanite, a stone discovered by Maasai herders in 1967, is the traditional gift for new mothers. It is, truly, the ultimate Birthstone.
A relative newcomer to the gem world, tanzanite has made a lasting mark on the jewelry industry. Mined only in one small area of a few kilometers in the Merelani hills, approximately 70 km Southeast of Arusha and Northwest of Mount Kilimanjaro, this rare stone is coveted by collectors and jewelers alike.
The rarest color of tanzanite is green, colored by trace amounts of chromium. Discovered in 1991, the local miners called it “combat”
because of its yellowish-green to bluish-green color. It is still considered one of the most collectable gems from Tanzania.
Read more about green tanzanite in this article by Edward Boehm and Dr. Barot – Gems and Gemology, Spring 1992
Tanzanite was discovered in 1967 when wildfires engulfed the Merelani hills at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, naturally heat treating the material and exposing their striking blue-violet color. A group of Maasai herders saw the exquisite stones and reported their findings to Portuguese geologist, Manuel D’Souza, who introduced this new discovery to the western world.
Tanzanite’s strong pleochroism causes it to display a multitude of colors, primarily blue and violet. Depending on the lighting, a single gem can present as blue, violet and burgundy. This is due to the trace amounts of vanadium and/or chromium present during its formation. As with many gems, larger stones tend to appear in a deeper color than their small counterparts.
Most tanzanite has to be heated to improve its color, which reduces or removes its reddish brown properties or improves color saturation. Recently, natural color material has gained favor because of the strong pleochroic colors that can be manifested through skillful cutting.