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Tanzanite: December's Modern Birthstone

Updated on February 12, 2015
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Tanzanite is a blue-purple stone that was discovered in Tanzania by the Masaai people in 1967. A few years later, tanzanite was brought to America by Tiffany and Co., who named it after its origin.

This rare stone is mainly blue with shades of red and tinges of green that make it appear to have hints of purple at times. The darker the gemstone, the more valuable it will be. These darker colors are typically only seen in stones 5 carats or larger. Stones smaller than this size are still beautiful yet normally lighter, more translucent, and thus are less valuable. Another impact on cost is if the stone is all natural or been treated. Tanzanite is often heat-treated to change its color from the more abundantly found natural brown colored gemstone to a blue colored one.

In 2002 tanzanite was selected as December's birthstone by the American Gem Trade Association. Thus, December born individuals now have two main birthstones to chose from: tanzanite and blue topaz.

You don't have to be born in December to appreciate the beauty of tanzanite jewelry. All types of jewelry from pendants, bracelets, rings and earrings can be created with the star of the piece being tanzanite. Tanzanite can be cut into a variety of shapes, the most popular being cushion, oval, round and emerald-cut.

Unfortunately, tanzanite is not the most durable gemstone. It ranks a 6 to 7 on the Moh's scale of gemstone hardness and is more easily damaged than stones like aquamarine, sapphire, and diamond (sapphire and diamonds are the hardest naturally occurring gemstones at 9 and 10 on the Moh's scale). This means that you should be extra cautious when considering a tanzanite ring. If you do decide to purchase one, be sure to only wear it on special occasions. Tanzanite earrings and pendants are okay since they not as vulnerable to wear-and-tear as something that is on your hand.

When cleaning never use ultrasonic jewelry cleaners as they can ruin tanzanite. The best way is to use warm water with a mild detergent and new soft toothbrush. You can also wipe it clean with a dry cloth, or take it to a jeweler to have it professionally cleaned. An additional note is that you should not subject this gemstone to sudden changes in temperature or high temperatures- such as direct sunlight for an extended period of time.


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