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Tanzania is a country rich in folklore and legend. At the time of tanzanite's discovery, local Maasai communities wove bold and colorful stories around the creation of this exceptional stone. They told that the land was set ablaze by a bolt of lightning, and that the heat from this magic 'fire from the sky' transformed crystals on the ground into shimmering blue-violet gems.
When the last cinders dissolved into the earth and the thick smoke settled, awestruck tribesmen filled their pouches with the mystical stones, intuitively knowing that these jewels would bring a better life.
The actual discovery of tanzanite remains something of a mystery. This transparent blue gem first turned up in 1962, scattered on the Earth's surface in northern Tanzania, in eastern Africa. Although there are numerous versions, it is not known for certain who found the first crystal. The most widely accredited narrative suggests that in July of 1967, Ali Juuyawatu, a local Maasai tribesman, found a piece of translucent crystal near Mount Kilimanjaro. Fascinated by its blue-violet hue, he shared his find with Manuel D'Souza, a tailor by profession and prospector by passion, who was looking for rubies in the region.
Masai legend is that cattle herders first noticed this stone some 30 years previously, after a brush-fire caused by lightning burned large areas of the plains at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The herders noticed that brown Zoisite crystals had turned a deep blue-purple due to the heat from the fire.
Believing the find to be vibrant sapphire, D'Souza had no idea he had stumbled on an entirely new specimen. Gemological tests revealed that the crystal had a composition more complex than sapphire, and that its color was more intriguing, more alluring, and more exotic than any other gemstone.
Tanzanite owes its worldwide success to the New York jewelers, Tiffany & Company (see article)whose phenomenal success story is due in part to the creative designing and clever marketing, but above all to a passionate interest in all things mineral. It was the great grandson of Louis Comfort Tiffany, Henry Platt, who upon seeing the first Tanzanite became so excited that he immediately set about organizing a marketing campaign. It was Platt who named the gem Tanzanite after it's country of origin, Tanzania. According to Platt, Tanzanite was going to be the new colored gemstone sensation of the 20th Century and proclaimed "Tanzanite is the most important gemstone discovery in over 2000 years". GIA - Gemological Institute of America
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The American Gem Society has listed Tanzanite as a December birthstone and is increasingly regarded as the birthstone, irrespective of the month, as a celebration of new life and new beginnings. Maasai custom underlines the authenticity of this association. Since its discovery, tanzanite has represented transformation and a better life for the people of Tanzania. Blue is, and has always been, a sacred, spiritual color to the Maasai. According to age old custom only women who have been blessed with fertility, with the miracle of new life, have the honor of wearing blue beads and garb. A modern Maasai tradition has evolved, whereby Maasai chiefs give tanzanite to their wives on the birth of a baby to bestow upon the child a healthy, positive and successful life.
Tanzanite's exquisite color, poised intriguingly between blue and violet, is unlike any other gemstone. There is a wide and varied range of hues, catering to different tastes. In its rough form, tanzanite is uniquely trichroic radiating three different colors from each of its crystallographic axes, namely blue, violet and burgundy. Once cut and polished, it becomes a kaleidoscope of royal blue, violet, indigo, lilac and periwinkle. It is this unique color, vibrant, individual and youthful, that gives tanzanite a strong, immediately recognizable identity and contributes to its special positioning in both the gemstone and the fine jewelry markets. Tanzanite's color is free from any existing or outdated associations and provides instant emotional appeal to the world's jewelry wearers. Tanzanite Blue is the color of Fashion and Inspiration. Tanzanite is the hottest Fashion Accessory right now especially investment grade Tanzanite.
Tanzanite Mines Flood
On Good Friday, March 28,1998 several hours of torrential rains at the Merelani Hills in Tanzania was all that was needed to turn the Tanzanite mine pits and connecting tunnels of Block B into a horrifying massive muddy grave, killing well over 100 miners. A lot of shafts are interlinked, when water goes into one open shaft, everyone gets water from connecting tunnels. Before anyone could react, water was gushing down the narrow shafts, pushing forward tons of stone tailings that surrounded the entrance of each mine - 74 in all were flooded. After that, shortages sent prices for tanzanite skyrocketing - production never quite recovered. High demand has pushed miners to dig deeper and deeper into the ground - over 1000 feet but they are finding less and less material. Although the supply of new material continues to dwindle, today's economic conditions have caused some suppliers to reduce their inventory.
Harder and harder to find
Tanzanite is regarded as being a 'blue-chip' investment due to its rarity and value. We are living during what has become known as the 'tanzanite generation', where it is still possible to be a first time owner of a tanzanite. With a finite supply from a single source, tanzanite is an heirloom to be passed on from generation to generation.
Tanzania Minerals Act 2010
Energy and Minerals minister William Ngeleja informed journalists that the government banned the export of rough tanzanite larger than 5 ct. The ban came into effect on October, 2011.The move came in the wake of the landmark passage by parliament of the Minerals Act of 2010 into an Act aimed at putting the exploitation of the gemstones wholly in the hands of indigenous Tanzanians. As part of the new legislation, Tanzania will not issue new gemstone mining licenses to foreign companies. Availability of Tanzanite in the future will be greatly restricted by the Minerals Act at the same time the existing mines are depleted. Recent news from Jaipur, India the tanzanite cutting capital of the world.