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December Birthstone - Tanzanite

Steven Kretchmer 2(Stone) Gothic Rudder

Steven Kretchmer 2 stone rudder ring with tanzanite and Vietnamese ruby

 A prospector named Manuel d’Souza, who was looking for sapphire, discovered tanzanite in 1967 in northeastern Tanzania. D’Souza was originally from India and had been looking for stones in the wilds of Tanzania. Eventually, some natives took him to an area in the region of the Merelani Hills near Mount Kilimanjaro, around 90 kilometers from his home town of Arusha. There, he found these precious blue stones he thought were sapphire. According to legend, the Masai herders were actually the ones who originally discovered the stone, when a lightning strike set the surrounding grasslands on fire. When they returned to the land with their livestock, the blue stones were all over the ground. D’Souza soon discovered that the blue stones he had found were not sapphire, so he staked a claim with the government and began mining.

Henry Platt of Tiffany and Co. named the new gem “tanzanite” and Tiffany’s began a marketing campaign to introduce it to the public. Now, tanzanite is the pride of the gem-rich East African country, Tanzania.

Because tanzanite was only first discovered in 1967, there is not much history, legend, or superstition about the gemstone. In Tanzania, however, women who have just given birth wear blue beads and fabric to bestow a healthy and positive life upon their newborns. This custom has been going on for generations in Tanzania.

Although not a standard birthstone, in 2002 tanzanite was promoted by some jewelry organizations, including the American Gem Trade Association, as an alternative for December.

Pleochroism is very pronounced in tanzanite, and is seen as three different color shades in the same stone. When viewing a tanzanite stone, the colors dark blue, green-yellow and red-purple can be seen, all a result of pleochroism. Lesser stones may have a brownish color due to the mixing of blue, purple and green.

SKD - 2(Stone) Gothic Rudder w Tanz&Dia on Black 4x6 - 96dpi

Steven Kretchmer Rudder ring with tanzanite and diamond

Tanzanite ranges from pale lavender (most common in smaller sizes) to deep and intense blue.

The gem’s only known commercial source is Tanzania.

The color in most tanzanite is created by heat treating the brownish mineral zoisite to more attractive colors. The treatment is stable under normal wear and has a hardness of 6.5 to 7.


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