Meaning of Tanzanite as the December Birthstone

Have you ever wondered about the meaning of tanzanite as the December birthstone? Gem experts classify this stunning, violet-blue treasure as one of the Big Five Gems in the world, alongside diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds. Steeped in Masai folklore and only found in one place in Tanzania, tanzanite holds some fascinating secrets.

Meaning of Tanzanite as the December Birthstone

Meaning of Tanzanite as the December Birthstone

Tanzanite was discovered by accident

In 1967, a Masai tribesman called Ali Juuyawatu was walking in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He spotted a glimmering, purplish rock in the grass and kept it.

Sometime later, he sold it to a local tailor called Manuel D’Souza, who’s hobby was prospecting for rubies and diamonds in the area.

Little did they both know that Ali had happened across a whole new type of gemstone. Tanzanite is so rare that it is still only found in that one spot in the whole world.

Meaning of Tanzanite as the December Birthstone
Tanzanite is only found near Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania

What is tanzanite?

Tanzanite belongs to a mineral group called zoisite, only found in Tanzania. Many millions of years ago, around Mount Kilimanjaro, deposits of zoisite crystals developed underground. These deposits existed at various depths and, occasionally, right on the earth’s surface. However, for a long time, they went undetected.

Meaning of Tanzanite as the December Birthstone

Tanzanite is one of the Big Five Gems

Once the discovery had been made, tanzanite didn’t remain unknown for long. It’s dazzling colour and sparkle soon bewitched both gem traders and the public. And its rarity – found only in one place in the whole world – made it even more desirable. Today, tanzanite is classed as one of the Big Five Gems, alongside diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

Meaning of Tanzanite as the December Birthstone
Cut and polished tanzanite gemstones of different shapes 

Tanzanite’s special colour

Are tanzanite crystals blue or violet? The answer is both. Tanzanite is a pleochroic gem, meaning that if you hold it up to the light the crystal will reflect different colours. These can range from light blue and violet to deep indigo and purple.

See this beautiful effect on video:

See how this gorgeous tanzanite sparkles in blue and violet – click to shop

From rough tanzanite to gemstones

In its rough form, about 97% of tanzanite is purple-brown. The other 3% of tanzanite is naturally blue because millions of years ago volcanic heat under the earth’s crust changed its colour.

Natural blue tanzanite is so rare that it’s hardly ever found. Therefore, gem producers routinely heat tanzanite to achieve the desired colour. Gemmologists and other experts accept heating in commercial tanzanite jewellery because otherwise, we wouldn’t get to enjoy this gem’s beautiful colour.

Meaning of Tanzanite as the December Birthstone

Birthstone lore

The West only discovered blue tanzanite in 1967. But the Masai tribes of Tanzania had long known about the purple-brown version of the mineral, then considered non-valuable. They often used it as amulets.

Tanzanian mothers wore tanzanite to during childbirth because the Masai believe the stone can bring health and long life to newborns. The tribes also use the crystals to help communication with spirits and to bring luck, peace and strength.

Meaning of Tanzanite as the December Birthstone
Masai tribespeople in Tanzania – Photo by William Warby wwarby on

Astrological beliefs

Modern astrologists, upon examination of the stone, decided that Tanzanite is astrologically aligned with the month of December and the star sign of Capricorn – alongside turquoise and lapis lazuli. In 2002 the American Gem Association made tanzanite the official December birthstone, and also the recommended gem gift for 24th wedding anniversaries.

Meaning of Tanzanite as the December Birthstone

How valuable is tanzanite?

Tanzanite is, in fact, rarer than diamonds because it can only be found in one location in the world.

Because tanzanite exists mainly as small crystals, dainty pieces represent excellent value to the consumer. However, larger stones immediately rise in price.

In November 2015, an anonymous gem collector put a large assortment of gemstones on auction in Nottingham, UK. One of the tanzanite rings alone fetched 45,000 pounds sterling.

Meaning of Tanzanite as the December Birthstone

Tanzanite is running out

According to a London Share Market study carried out by independent geologists, the reserves at Tanzania’s largest mining company, TanzaniteOne, will become depleted in just under 300 years.

Mining could finish even earlier because as the miners go deeper extracting the crystal becomes much harder. Tanzanite only exists in Arusha, Tanzania and gem experts believe that no further deposits exist anywhere in the world.

So this would mean the end of its production worldwide.

Meaning of Tanzanite as the December Birthstone

Why tanzanite makes such a special gift

If you have seen tanzanite up close, you’ll know its colour and sparkle are breathtaking. But this isn’t the only reason why makes a great gift. You also have to factor in the exclusivity of its origin.

The idea of possessing a precious object that not many people own is the main reason why we hold rare gems in such high esteem. That’s why tanzanite is such a beautiful gift choice and has lasting investment value.

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