From deep in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania comes tanzanite, a gemstone with only a single known source that has become one of the most intriguing and desirable precious gemstones of modern times. It is a variety of the mineral zoisite and varies from blue, to violet, or purple in colour. Described as ‘a geological phenomenon’, tanzanite is 1,000 times more rare than diamonds. Tanzanite jewellery is extremely valuable and coveted, both for the gem’s rarity, as well as its beauty.
FORMATION OF TANZANITE
Five hundred and eighty five million years ago, in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, Mother Nature yielded her most precious of all gems. As testimony to its rarity it remained unknown until 1967 when it was discovered at what is the still the world's only known source – Tanzania.
Significant tectonic plate activity and intense heat formed Mount Kilimanjaro, and in this process, the Mozambique Orogenic Belt (one of the most mineral-rich places on Earth), was formed as well. It is believed that it was during this process that rough tanzanite was formed. The process is known as regional metamorphism, and can be explained as follows: when tectonic plates collide with one another, the igneous rocks (rocks formed through the cooling and solidification of magma / lava) of each tectonic plate are morphed into one another by means of extreme pressure. The rocks reach near melting-point, and when this happens, they produce beautiful crystal structures. In this process, gems are formed, essentially, from the coming together of two plates. Each of the two plates can contain a variety of different minerals, and because of this, combinations that are specific to one area, may occur. This explains why tanzanite is only found in one area in the world. The morphing together of two tectonic plates in this specific area of Tanzania resulted in a particular mix that has not been discovered anywhere else in the world.
The conditions that created the tanzanite deposit at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro are thought to be so unique, that geologists believe the chances of another batch of tanzanite being created are only about one in one million.
Among the local people of Tanzania, various stories and myths exist as to how this precious gem came about. It is popularly believed that tanzanite was formed by an act of God, when he used lightning strikes to set the surrounding hills alight. After the fires burnt out and the earth cooled down, the rocks deep inside the earth turned blue. The gem is also believed to carry unique spiritual properties, with local Tanzanian people believing that tanzanite heightens spiritual growth. Tanzanite rings are often worn for protection, and for the gems alleged calming and soothing properties.
Due to the uniqueness of its formation, its rarity, and its unrivalled beauty, tanzanite has become a sought-after gem all around the world. Discover the Ayanda Tanzanite jewellery collection for buying tanzanite in South Africa.
ATTRIBUTES OF TANZANITE
- Rarity: Tanzanite’s only known source in the world is a 4km strip of land near Mount Kilimanjaro, northern Tanzania. This single, limited source renders tanzanite at least a thousand times more than diamonds. With only one known source to date, it is predicted that within the next 10 – 12 years no more gem-quality tanzanite will be found.
- Colour: Tanzanite is uniquely trichroic. This means that in its rough form, it radiates three different colours from each of its crystallographic axes: blue, violet and burgundy. Once cut and polished, tanzanite ranges from electric violets to vibrant blues, deep royals and rich indigos. The color of Tanzanite is strongly related to the presence of vanadium and titanium in its crystallographic structure.
- African mystique: Its geology is so unique that the chances of tanzanite occurring elsewhere in the world are unlikely. Tanzanite’s exclusively African heritage and the alluring narrative of its discovery have proved to be a unique selling feature. Tanzanite jewellery is a particularly attractive investment for foreigners visiting the African continent, as it allows them to take home, something that is uniquely African.
- Investment value: There is no other investment that will yield as great a return as investing in tanzanite of the highest quality. It is more likely to increase in value as supply gets less and demand increases.