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Tanzanite
by Stephanie Pflumm
 
This shy, gentle crystal instantly stole my heart. Its magical color
changing as the light and Grandfather Sun changed. Tanzanite is
trichroic, which means where and even when light hits the gemstone will
affect the colors that you see.
Tanzanite is a member of the Zoisite mineral family. Zoisite is a
calcium, aluminum silicate which includes other gemstones like Thulite
and Epidote (the green portion of Unakite). Tanzanite crystals also
includes chromium and strontium.
As its name implies Tanzanite is from Tanzania, exclusively. While
Zoisites are found around the world, this particular family member is
found only in and around the Usumburu mountains and Umba valley in the
North of this country. It was first found around 1966 or 1967 by an
Indian tailor, Manuel D'Souza. He noticed a lively blue crystal in the
ground near his home in Arusha Tanzania.
The newly discovered crystal was sent to the German Society for Precious
Stones in Idar-Oberstein for identification, cutting and finishing.
Examination and chemical analysis of the crystal identified the blue
beauty as an undiscovered member of the Zoisite crystal group. Tiffany's
instantly adopted the new gemstone and launched it with much fanfare and
publicity in 1969. Unfortunately for the crystal, and many of those that
mined it, their introduction of Tanzanite was highly successful.
The vast majority of Tanzanite is not the valuable blue or lavender
color when it comes from the Earth, but rather a bronze or a
brownish/blue/gray color. Not a very exciting gemstone. Exposing these
raw crystals to temperatures of 500 to 700 degrees changes everything.
Heat brings out the commercial colors that Tanzanite is so desired for.
Add to that its ability to alter colors in changing lights and in no
time at all you have a gemstone in high demand.
However many of the crystal's physical qualities do not lend itself to
jewelry. It has a perfect cleavage, which means Tanzanite will break
along a perfect plane with the slightest tap. So it is injured easily
when banged or jarred. Ultra sonic cleansing is not recommended for
these gems either because the process can cause damage. Perhaps it was
not intended for jewelry.
There appears to be a story circulating in some references describing
the discovery of the affect of heat on the Tanzanite crystal. As I read
about Tiffany's connection to the gemstone,
I had to wonder if the story had been circulated in their publicity
material (or originated in it).
The grasses covering a hill Northeast of the town of Arusha were set
ablaze by a lightening strike. A few days later after the field could
cool, Masai herders that grazed their sheep on the hill came to inspect
the damage. What they found were the familiar field stones had turned
dramatic hues of blue and purple in the heat of the fire.
It is extremely rare for a Tanzanite crystal to be naturally blue. Even
more rare are green specimens of the crystal. More often than not, green
Tanzanites are tossed in with the brownish ones to be changed by the
fires.
Retrieving the stone from Mother has not been easy. High expectations
and pressures were put on the limited resources to meet commercial
demands for the gemstones. In the early Spring of 1999 the mines had to
be closed. Heavy rains and flooding had killed over 100 miners (many
that had gone into the mines seeking shelter from the downpour). The
corporations involved decided that bringing the mines up to safety
standards would be too cost prohibitive.
Tanzanite crystals form in cracks and fissures of igneous rock, the
result of minerals like calcium, strontium and aluminum being altered by
precipitation. It also formed in contact zones of schists and shales.
The crystals tend to be fairly small. The Natural History Museum in
Washington has one of the largest on record, weighing in at 122.7
carats. The largest was 126 carats before being cut into jewelry
gemstones.
Light exerts a substantial influence on this stones appearance. The time
of day and type of light can determine what color our human eyes will
perceive. In natural light, Tanzanite is at its bluest color during the
Sun's zenith (midday). In the mornings and late afternoons it can appear
red, yellow or orange. Under incandescent, halogen or candle light the
crystal may appear more purple or violet. Fluorescent lights enhance the
blues in a Tanzanite stone.
If you are going to use this gemstone in a jewelry setting, you must
take extra care with it. Store it in a separate pouch or bag when
placing it in a box or container with other stones. Have your crystal
set in earrings or a short pendant so that it has less chance of being
banged and damaged. Wash it gently with a mild detergent and warm water.
You will also want to avoid exposing it to extreme temperature changes.
Even going from a 100 degree Summer day into a 69 degree air conditioned
building can have a negative impact on your stone.
My personal observation is that Tanzanite is not comfortable as a
jewelry stone. The small strand of beads that I worked with for this
article felt very shy. For the first week or so I wore the strand
wrapped around my wrist and the stones were, well, silent. It felt like
I wasn't able to connect with the gem at all. Then it lost itself for a
couple of days. When I finally found it a few days later, lurking under
a sock, under my bed I stuck the strand in my pocket and immediately it
began singing to me.
After that I kept the strand of Tanzanite beads in my pocket and we got
along wonderfully. Well, there were a few times I took them out to wear
on my wrist, but I always waited until we were safely home first. Their
color is just too mesmerizing to watch, I couldn't resist admiring them
every once in a while.
Tanzanite is a stone of personal awareness and spirituality. If you are
needing to learn more about yourself, to be able to ask yourself the big
questions and answer them honestly, then you need to become acquainted
with Tanzanite. However you must be prepared to handle the truth. This
may be a shy gentle gemstone, but it is not going to lie to you, nor
will it allow you to lie to yourself. If you are ready to face your
talents and faults head on, then it is time to welcome Tanzanite into
your life.
It is an excellent gemstone for help with manifesting. It can stimulate
your will, bringing all your energy, focus and enthusiasm into turning
your project or wish into reality.
You can use this crystal to open the doors and gates that guard the
physical realms from the spiritual. It also aids the subconscious in
communicating with the conscious mind. This openness can result in
heighten psychic skills or in more effective communication of your
spiritual self.
The crystal works to open and activate the Throat and Third Eye Chakra.
You can use it for vision work or to invoke protection during magic or
ceremony.
There are not many healing traditions associated with Tanzanite at this
time. It is still a fairly young gemstone. Melody's "Love Is In The
Earth" recommends it for problems with your eyes, alignment of the spine
and waking up comatose patients.