Tanzanite: A Mesmerizing History and Captivating Beauty – Part 1

In the heart of East Africa, where the majestic landscapes of Tanzania meet the rugged foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, lies a gemstone of mesmerizing beauty and rich history—Tanzanite. This remarkable stone, with its striking blue and violet hues, has captivated the world’s attention since its discovery in the late 20th century. Let’s delve into the history, allure, and enduring mystique of Tanzanite.

A Geological Marvel

Tanzanite, a variety of the mineral zoisite, is renowned for its extraordinary colour and rarity. It derives its name from its country of origin, Tanzania, where it was first unearthed in the Merelani Hills of the Manyara Region in 1967. The story of Tanzanite’s formation begins over half a billion years ago when tectonic shifts and intense heat led to the creation of these unique gem deposits.

The gem’s captivating blue-violet hue is often attributed to the presence of vanadium, a rare element that imparts its distinct colour. Tanzanite’s colour ranges from the deepest and most valuable blues to lighter purples, reflecting the intensity of vanadium in each stone. The interplay of colours within the same gemstone is a hallmark of Tanzanite, making it a favourite among collectors and jewellery enthusiasts.

A Serendipitous Discovery*

Tanzanite’s journey to global acclaim was, in part, a product of serendipity. Its discovery is credited to Manuel de Souza, a tailor who was prospecting for sapphires in the Merelani Hills in 1967. However, he did not find sapphires but instead uncovered a new and enchanting gemstone. Souza’s find opened the door to a gemmological treasure trove, and Tanzania quickly became the sole source of this exquisite stone.

Tanzanite’s Rise to Prominence

The introduction of Tanzanite to the gem market was met with immediate intrigue and excitement. Its unique colour set it apart from other blue stones like sapphires, and the world of gemmology soon fell in love with the mesmerizing blues and violets that Tanzanite could display. The Gemmological Institute of America (GIA) officially recognized Tanzanite as a distinct gem variety in 1968.

However, Tanzanite’s enchantment extended beyond its colours. The gem’s captivating lore, rarity, and limited source (Tanzania’s Merelani Hills) only added to its allure. This newfound rarity quickly transformed Tanzanite into one of the world’s most sought-after and prized gemstones. Its exclusivity was further accentuated by the fact that the mines were located in a geographically restricted area.

The Tanzanite Rush

In the years following its discovery, the world was gripped by “Tanzanite fever.” Prospectors and miners flocked to the Merelani Hills in search of the precious stone. The Tanzanite rush was characterized by a scramble for these elusive gems, with many hoping to cash in on the growing global demand. It was a time of hope, dreams, and the pursuit of riches for both locals and international fortune seekers.

As the demand for Tanzanite continued to grow, the mines in the Merelani Hills became a primary source of economic sustenance for the region, providing livelihoods for thousands of Tanzanians. This gem not only adorned the world but also elevated the lives of those living in its birthplace.


* More stories about its discovery exist, but the above is the generally accepted one.


[Picture of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania by Greg Montani (Pixbay)]

[Picture of Tanzanite rough gemstone by KREIS Jewellery]

[Picture of a cut Tanzanite gemstone by KREIS Jewellery]