Tanzanite, the December alternate to turquoise and zircon, was not discovered until 1967, so it is a relative newcomer to the list of birthstones. It is named for the one country on earth where it is currently found: Tanzania, in eastern Africa. Although discovered by others, Tiffany & Co. deserves the credit for naming the gem and popularizing it beginning with a big publicity campaign in 1968.
Tanzanite is known for various hues of blue and violet.
Tanzanite is known for various hues of blue and violet; however, most comes naturally from the ground a brownish color that is heat-treated to enhance its violet color. Tanzanite is a prized gemstone, especially in larger sizes (five carats and above), with blues that can be richer than a sapphire’s.
Tanzanite exhibits what is called pleochroism, which means it displays different colors in different directions—violetish-blue in one direction, and bluish-purple in another.
Tanzanite should be treated with care because it can be easily damaged and is sensitive to sudden changes in temperature. It is best to buy tanzanite set in earrings or pendants. When worn in rings, choose a protective mounting and wear with care. Warm soapy water or jewelry cleaner is advised for cleaning, and neither ultrasonic nor steam cleaners should ever be used.