Tanzanite - The History of The Newest Gem
During the mid 1970's, Tanzania's government turned socialistic, and the mines were nationalized. Tanzanite production officially stopped at that time. Production since that time has been sporadic, sometimes large, but often very limited. Today the demand for Tanzanite, especially in sizes between 6 and 15 carats, continues to be strong, and the supply very poor. New mining techniques at some parts of the tanzanite deposit and the liberalization of the Tanzanian economy has helped to boost production in the past few years to make tanzanite more available than ever before in the history of the gemstone. Tanzanite prices have fluctuated wildly over the past few decades, due to the changing political climate in Tanzania, but a new operator, Tanzanite One has brought stability at high prices.
Troubles in The Mining of Tanzanite
There is only one Tanzanite deposit of commercial
but it is very large about 5 miles long, however only limited parts of that area
have economic quantities of good gem material. It has been divided into
mining lease blocks,
the majority of
which are controlled by a South African mining company, and the rest of the area
is worked by small
groups of individuals. The mining
company, which goes by the name of Tanzanite One, styles itself after the De
Beers diamond corporation. After taking control of the majority of the
deposit, They are now facet cutting much of the material they produce as
finished goods for sale, and offering tanzanite rough only to a few selected sight
holders. They also purchase the majority of the rough produced by the local
small scale miners.
Their near complete control has led to
a reduced supply and regularly, significantly increasing prices. There is
now a scarcity of tanzanite available to the public, except through the
approved, Tanzanite One controlled channels. While Tanzanite One does use
modern mining techniques,
most of the mining
done by the small operators is done using primitive and dangerous mining
techniques. These small operators dig coyote holes through the mountain rocks trying to follow the
deposits of Tanzanite. This has led to a variety of mining disasters, including one where
more than 100 miners were killed in a flooding incident a few years back. Mining work is
now done at depths up to 1000 feet below the surface. Miners often spend up to three days
underground, working 24 hours per day. Many lives are also lost due to blasting accidents
and suffocation. Political tensions in the mining area are unstable and do erupt into
violence at times. The small-scale miners have bombed the offices of the larger mining
company that operates there. Company guards from the large operator have shot at and
killed some of the small-scale miners. Tensions in the area continue to this day.
Tensions in the area continue to this day.
mining in this area has gone deeper, the overall quality of the product coming onto the world market
has tended to decrease and medium to lower grade materials have become more common as the
best areas have become worked out. The better qualities and larger stones have become more
and more difficult to obtain, and as a result, more expensive. In many
cases, extraordinary fine tanzanite gemstones are almost as expensive as the
sapphires of a similar color which it is used in jewelry to imitate.
In many cases, extraordinary fine tanzanite gemstones are almost as expensive as the sapphires of a similar color which it is used in jewelry to imitate.
| Is Tanzanite For Terrorists
or do They Sell Conflict Tanzanite?
Shortly after the 9/11
tragedies, some allegations were made that terrorists had a significant involvement the
marketing of tanzanite. These allegations were researched and efforts were made to brand tanzanite and show that it was free
from terrorist influence, but further investigation has shown that the original claims of
terrorist involvement were grossly overstated and that terrorists had basically nothing
to do with the actual marketing channels for tanzanite. The US State Department has also
investigated this issue and publicly stated that there is no evidence that al-Qaeda or any
other terrorist group is currently using tanzanite sales to finance their efforts or to
launder money. In reality, the operations and controls established by
Tanzanite One have virtually eliminated what little influence they may have
had at one time.
In reality, the operations and controls established by Tanzanite One have virtually eliminated what little influence they may have had at one time.
Choosing a Tanzanite
The color of tanzanite is most intense in sizes above ten carats. Tanzanites smaller than one carat are usually paler in color. Tanzanites which are more blue rather than purple tend to be more expensive because the crystals tend to form with the blue color axis oriented along the width of the crystal instead of the length. That means that if the cutter chooses to maximize the purity of the blue color, the stone cut from the rough will be smaller and will cost more per carat. The blue color, however, is so beautiful, that the sacrifice is often worth it.
Tanzanite jewelry is a little more delicate than other gemstone jewelry and should not be set in a ring that will be worn during strenuous activity. A hair softer than most gems, it is prone to scratching when worn in rings. Never clean tanzanite in an ultrasonic cleaner or resize or repair a ring set with tanzanite because the stone could shatter in the heat of a torch. The stones must be removed before any work is done on the setting. It is available in a variety of shapes and sometimes in large sizes that are perfect for an important necklace.
Many individuals have chosen to invest some significant money in Tanzanite. The increasing prices which we have seen in recent years does seem likely to continue for some time into the future.
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