Brief Tanzanite History
Tanzanite is a transparent indigo-colored gemstone that was reportedly first discovered in the 1960’s near the dormant volcano Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania, a country in east Africa. Scientists identified this newly discovered gem material as a blue variety of the mineral zoisite. Tanzania may be best known for this violet-blue gem, which was named “tanzanite” by Tiffany & Co. Though Tanzania’s economic and political volatility effect the gem supply and price, it’s popularity remains strong.
Tanzanite is a pleochroic (two or more colors) gem that displays different colors from different directions. Sometimes it appears violet-blue and from other directions purplish and reddish brown. The most valuable color of tanzanite is a fine “sapphire blue” but some consumers prefer a more purple hue. Most rough tanzanite is brown and undergoes heat-treating to achieve the beautiful blues and violets we see in jewelry stores today.
Tanzanite requires tender care and should not be subjected to extreme heat. Tanzanite is sensitive to thermal shock and can’t endure sudden temperature changes.
For example, if you are wearing a tanzanite ring in a cool, air-conditioned environment don’t thrust your hands under hot water. This sudden temperature change can cause cleavage (a flat, smooth break or crack) in your beautiful tanzanite.
Because tanzanite jewelry requires special care, we suggest more active clients choose tanzanite set in earrings and necklaces, as rings and bracelets are more vulnerable to accidental knocks and bumps. Philippe Medawar was once commissioned to create a masterpiece wedding set duo because the clients were passionate about having tanzanite wedding rings. After explaining the precautions, they proceeded with the commission and the rings were designed and sculpted to protect the fragile gems.
Philippe Medawar advises that tanzanite never be cleaned in an ultrasonic machine and never steam cleaned. Clients may clean their jewelry with a soft-bristled brush and warm, soapy water. For additional information on cleaning fine jewelry, click here. The knowledgeable staff at Philippe Medawar will happily answer any inquiries regarding the wearing and care of the lovely gem, tanzanite.