Just a glance at the accompanying photo and you understand why these relative newcomers became so popular so quickly. Tanzanite and Tsavorite were both “discovered” in 1967. In 1967 these gems from East Africa were brought to the attention of European and American gem buyers and quickly caught on. Why—the color of each has so much immediate eye-appeal.
Tsavorite is much more rare that Tanzanite and comes in smaller sizes. So, Tsavorite has never been quite as well known. Also, Tsavorite has always brought much higher prices—size for size in comparison. But think about it. Tsavorite is a green garnet. That is very exciting. At least 100 years earlier a green garnet was discovered in Russia. That gem is Demantoid Garnet. Demantoid is a different type of garnet with its own interesting properties.
Tanzanite hit the world with an almost sonic boom. The color and the comparatively larger sizes were an instant hit. At the time Tanzanite made it to Europe and the USA sapphire of good color was almost impossible to find. Tanzanite was initially promoted as a Sapphire substitute. However, the look of Tanzanite is distinctly different and unique. Having its own “look” has put Tanzanite in the position of being appreciated for its own sake. Sapphire in good colors and clarity and size is still an expensive proposition but does have the advantage of being 9 in hardness and suitable for daily wear.
Discussing the trade-offs between gems brings us to one issue of being a collector. Just like a mom loves all her kids a gem collector loves all the gems—differently but equally.
Some years ago, maybe 10 or 15, a movement began to make Tanzanite a birthstone option for December babies. The other two older options while perfectly great gems had not quite captured the desire quotient of other months’ birthstones. Tanzanite has been a big hit with the public almost from the beginning. Take a look at the Tanzanite in the photo—big, great color, clean and well cut. What could be lovelier?
Note that the gem in the picture has a nicely and fully saturated color. That is a sign of a higher quality gem. It also is a stone of decent size at over 12 carats. Mmmm!
Tanzanite is a one-location gemstone being found, so far, only in one mining area in Tanzania (hence the name). As a gem, Tanzanite was discovered in 1967. I was lucky to be cutting Tanzanite early on in 1973. As of 1973 word was getting out about Tanzanite but still back in the day information was slow making its way around the world—no TV home shopping, no internet, no digital photography.
A couple of gems that we really love come from East Africa. Our first trip overseas together as young marrieds was to East Africa in early 1977. We were early adopters to East African gems and Tanzanite and Tsavorite were on our list even back then. We were dealing directly with miners in the region. As you can see from the photo there is a good reason the entire population of the earth immediately fell in love with these two gems.
While it is normal for Tanzanite to occur in larger sizes it is quite unusual for Tsavorite to come in larger sizes like the 6 carat gem in the photo. This is especially true for larger sizes in good colors. Some times Tsavorite is too dark or too light in the larger sizes. The piece featured is a “Goldilocks Just Right” color. If you haven’t added these two beauties to your collection you might want to save up. They’re worth it!
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Having a December birthdate I’ve always been interested in the birthstone for my month. My first experience with a birthstone came from my dad’s trip to Texas back in the way back day. He stopped in Arizona along the way and bought me a turquoise ring. Wow! That was cool. I don’t remember the year but it was a number of decades ago. I am guessing I was all of 6 years old or so. It was a cool ring in the Southwest Native American style. I began to learn about birthstones.
The tradition I was taught as a young person was that December had two birthstones: zircon and turquoise. Well that tradition has had some issues.