Tanzanite Jewelry: What Are These Gems?

Tanzanite Jewelry
Tanzanite Necklace

Tanzanite jewelry features beautiful tanzanite gems that offer a distinctive look.

What Is Tanzanite?

Tanzanite is a mineral of the zoisite family that usually occurs in shades of gray, red-brown, red-purple, and green. When used for jewelry, an application of heat reveals its deep blue and purple shades. The semi-nomadic African tribe of Massai allegedly discovered the beauty of this mineral in the hills of Tanzania when lightning struck the neutral-hued tanzanite during a storm -- altering its colors into the rich shades coveted today in tanzanite jewelry. This area in northern Tanzania remains the sole known mining source of this gem today.

Jewelry featuring tanzanite was popularized by Tiffany & Co. in the 1960's, who coined the name of this crystal. It is known for its beautiful pleochroism, or double refraction of light. The stone is softer than many other gems, a 6 to 7 on the Moh's hardness scale (diamonds measure a 10 on the Moh's scale.)

Kinds of Tanzanite Jewelry

Tanzanite jewelry occurs in various shades and depths of color. Larger sizes of tanzanite gems, above ten karats, offer richer, deeper shades, while smaller tanzanite stones are paler in color. Although it is a lovely type of jewelry, tanzanite is also a delicate gem.

Typically, tanzanite is found in the following types of jewelry:

White gold, yellow gold, sterling silver, or platinum is often paired with tanzanite stones for eye-pleasing jewelry designs. Other fine gem stones, such as diamonds or sapphires, opals or pearls, are often paired with tanzanite as well.

Precautions and Care

Since tanzanite is considered a more fragile gem, any jewelry with tanzanite should be treated with care. Do not wear tanzanite jewelry during strenuous activity to avoid chipping the stones. When choosing your jewelry, look for low-settings that make the tanzanite less vulnerable to accidental damage. This especially applies to rings and bracelets, since the hands are subject to more activity.

Cleaning of tanzanite jewelry should be done carefully, and never in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. Mild soap and lukewarm water can adequately clean your tanzanite, but always follow the cleaning and care specifications from the jeweler for your particular tanzanite piece.

Synthetic Tanzanite

Prices for tanzanite jewelry, as with most gems, vary depending on the type of jewelry and the grade of tanzanite. A small tanzanite pendant may start at around $100, but the prices range well into the thousands for larger stones.

The beauty of tanzanite and the exclusiveness of obtaining the mined form make it a target for the fashion jewelry industry. Many companies have begun using simulants for tanzanite for everyday fashion jewelry that can be sold at lower prices than the real jewels.

Synthetic forsterite is a man-made gem that has characteristics similar in many ways to tanzanite. The multi-colored appearance is similar to the blue, pink, and purple shades of synthetic forsterite. It also exhibits similar special light-refracting abilities shown by tanzanite.

Tanzanion is a synthetic form of tanzanite that also harbors many similarities, but is formed to be slightly harder than genuine tanzanite.

If you are looking for genuine tanzanite jewelry:

  • Buy from an established jeweler you can trust.
  • Be wary of too-good-to-be-true prices.
  • Due to the exclusive mining area, prices for tanzanite are only expected to increase, so be wary of low prices allegedly marked down from higher original tags.
  • Examine the quality of the piece carefully for quality craftsmanship.
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Tanzanite Jewelry: What Are These Gems?