Gemstones and Jewelry


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Tanzanite Gemstone Guide: How to Shop for Tanzanite Jewelry

What is Tanzanite?

Tanzanite, a beautiful bluish-purple gemstone, is the most recent  addition to the lineup of precious gemstones, having only been discovered in 1967, and was only added as an official birthstone for the month of December in 2002.

Tanzanite is found in only one place in the world - Tanzania - and it is considered a precious gemstone along with ruby, sapphire, emerald and diamond.  Tanzanite rates a 6.5-7 (out of 10) on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, along with the peridot and onyx.

Diamonds InternationalTanzanite Clarity

Tanzanite is considered a Type 1 clarity gemstone, meaning it has excellent natural clarity and is usually found to be eye-clean (no inclusions visible with aid of magnification).

Tanzanite Color and Tanzanite Heat Treatment

The natural color range of tanzanite spans from an ultramarine blue to a violet-blue.  The most valuable and prized color is a deep blue with violet tones.

Most raw tanzanite, however, has a brownish cast along with the blue elements and is routinely heat treated to remove the brownish elements of its color and to bring out the beautiful blue-purplish colors we love in tanzanite jewelry.  Such heat treatment is an accepted practice in the jewelry industry and does not fade nor wear away with time.

Buying Tanzanite Jewelry - Why is Tanzanite So Expensive?

If you've been browsing tanzanite jewelry, you 've probably noticed that it's pricey.  There are a couple of factors that contribute to tanzanite jewelry's high price tag, the foremost being its scarcity.  Remember that tanzanite is found in only one place in the the world.

Tanzanite is also a gemstone that has 'perfect cleavage.'  This means that it can be, literally, cleaved in two by a sharp blow in the right place or by a gem cutter's lack of skill.  This means that working with tanzanite requires a high level of both competence and experience.  And it's not a particularly hard gemstone either, making it more succeptible to physical damage than, say, a diamond - a stone which also has perfect cleavage but one that rates a 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness versus tanzanite's 6.5-7 rating.  This makes the manufacture of tanzanite jewelry, in a certain sense, more of a demanding and intricate process than manufacturing diamond jewelry.  And the more intricate the process, the higher the price tag.

Lastly, consider the appeal and demand/marketability of tanzanite jewelry.  It's an absolutely breathtaking gemstone and its blue-purplish tones have no match in the gemstone jewelry world, unlike aquamarine and blue topaz jewelry, whose color spectrums can overlap.

Tanzanite Jewelry Shopping Tip #1:  The most important factor in the pricing of tanzanite jewelry is its color - the deeper the color, the pricier the jewelry (and yes, this includes heat treated tanzanite too - remember, nearly all tanzanite jewelry has undergone heat treatment).  Tanzanite of a deep blue-purplish color will cost more than lighter color tanzanite - even if the lighter color tanzanite is a good deal larger and of greater weight.

Tanzanite Jewelry Shopping Tip #2:  Don't forget that tanzanite is a Type 1 clarity gemstone and tends to be naturally eye-clean.  Of course, as with all gemstones, the larger the stone, the more inclusions one can expect to find. 

However, because of its excellent natural clarity, tanzanite jewelry should not require any clarity enhancement treatment.  Heat treatments are routine.  Clarity enhancement treatments on a stone that has excellent natural clarity is not.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sets forth guidelines on disclosure of gemstone treatments to the consumer.  If you're shopping online, such disclosures can often be found through links with titles like, "About our Gemstones" or "Product Details."   Reputable jewelry sellers, both online and in person, are happy to provide information on their products and to answer any questions you have.  

Heat treatments, clarity treatments and other enhancement techniques may or may not be routine, depending upon the gemstone in question.  All are fine provided that you, the buyer, know what you're paying for and receive full disclosure prior to sale.

If you're interesting in reading more about disclosure guidelines for treated gemstones, In the Loupe - Advertising Diamonds, Gemstones and Pearls (a collaborative/cooperative effort between the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission) is a great place to start.

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