Tanzanites were first found in the late 1960's, at what remains the sole source: a hilly area called Merelani in, Tanzania. So unlike many other gemstones, that I have featured, it does not carry a mystical ancient history. The name was changed from "blue zoisite" to tanzanite by Tiffany & Company.
There are many colors that can be seen in a tanzanite. This is because it is a trichroic gem. Very few stones are trichroic and this is what makes tanzanites very easy to identify. Trichroic refers to three layers of color. The more common layers are blues and purples but you may also see flashes of red, green, yellow, orange, or brown. The color that gemologist predominantly speak of is the "deep royal blue".
Keep in mind that most tanzanites have a distinct shift in color with different types of lighting. There are a few tricks that I use when I purchase tanzanites and they are the following:
1. Always clean the stone first. Dirt and fingerprints hide color and brilliance.
2. Examine the stone face up against a variety of backgrounds. Look straight down at it against a white background and check if the center of the stone is pale and washed out. (This is undesirable). Then examine against a black background. Do you still see the same colors or do they disappear?
3. Examine the stone with different lighting; natural versus synthetic lighting. Look at it under dark lighting(shaded areas).
4. Check the stone from the side to look for what is called color zoning. If the color is uneven this decreases the value of the stone. Have the store explain about hue and color purity when you compare price. This is where most of the stones purchased in the islands come up short.
5. Always look at a stone with a 10X power loupe. This will help you see the color depth as well as any defects that may be in the stone.
I will never forget an email that I received one day about a tanzanite bracelet that I had on auction. I had a price of $800 on the bracelet. The stones were smaller but the quality was very beautiful. I paid $750 for the bracelet. Now keep in mind that I buy almost four million dollars a year in jewelry, so my costs are much lower than most jewelers. I received this email from a gentleman stating that he had been following my auction and that it was obvious that my bracelet had not sold because it was priced too high. That same bracelet today, one year later, would cost me over a thousand dollars.
Since subtle differences in quality can make large differences in beauty (and price), it is important to select your jewelry from a professional who can guide you honestly and ethically in your purchase. I have had so many people tell me that tanzanites are much cheaper in the islands. This is a false statement. Fine tanzanites are very expensive. And with the recent blocks on production the prices are sky-rocketing. There are cheap tanzanites on the market but they are just that, cheap!
Hues that range from blue to violet blue command the highest prices. The majority of people prefer colors that look closer to a blue sapphire. Tanzanites that have a strong purple color and look like amethyst stones are much cheaper to buy. I have really stressed color because this is the most important pricing factor for tanzanites.
Always compare price per carat when pricing colored stones. Otherwise it will be difficult to make an accurate comparison. Very high quality stones demand high prices because they are very rare. It is always best to let the jeweler know what your pocket book can handle or you may be very surprised. Remember that there is no standard system for grading colored stones. This is why it is wise to look at many stones and compare prices before purchasing what you think is a good deal. It is best to establish a relationship with your jeweler because they will help you find values that you would rarely find on your own.
|Type of Lighting||Effect of Lighting on Tanzanite|
|Sunlight||At midday, it normally has a neutral effect on
the hue. Earlier and later in the day, it adds
red, orange, or yellow making the|
stones look more purple.
|Light bulbs & candlelight||Add red. Purple colors are strengthened, blue may turn violet to purple, and grayish colors may look brownish. The degrees of change varies depending on the stone. Some show little change.|
|Flourescent lights||Depends on what type they are. Most
strengthen the blue in|
|Halogen spotlights||Add sparkle and usually make stones look
more purple. The|
color change is usually less than with light bulbs.
|Light under an overcast sky||Adds blue and grey.|
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