Staff Picks for Summer: Tanzanite

Here at Beads of Cambay, we are constantly adding exciting new gemstones to our collection, and we thought we would share our latest favorite with you. Today, we’d like to introduce you to a relatively new gemstone bead, the captivating blue tanzanite. This beautifully saturated stone is a perfect addition to your bead collection due to its rarity, brilliance, and color. We’re going to share three reasons why we love tanzanite, and why we think you’ll love it, too.


Only One Place on Earth

One of the most coveted gemstones in the world, tanzanite is prized for its lush blue velvet color. Tanzanite is sourced from a single place in the world, the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, making it a rare gem of limited quantity.

Known scientifically as blue zoisite, the gemstone was renamed tanzanite to help market the recently discovered stone to the public. The name references its sole place of origin in northern Tanzania, Africa. All the tanzanite mines in the world are located in an area of about eight square miles in the Merelani Hills, near the base of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Most gemstones were discovered thousands of years ago, but commercial tanzanite wasn’t discovered until the 1960s by Maasai tribesmen. Tanzanite is the blue variety of the mineral zoisite. Zoisite naturally occurs in a wide range of colors that include blue, violet. green, gray, yellow, brown, pink, and colorless. The name tanzanite is used specifically for blue to bluish purple to bluish violet specimens, much like the word ruby refers to the red variety of the mineral corundum.

Tanzanite forms as a brownish crystal and is trichroic, which means it shows three concurrent colors: brown, blue, and violet. Soon after tanzanite was discovered, laboratory experiments revealed that heating could improve the color of some naturally blue stones. They also determined that heating could transform naturally brown zoisite into beautiful blue zoisite. With those discoveries, there was enough blue zoisite to support a marketing effort that would introduce the gem to millions of people.

Today, nearly all of the gems being sold as tanzanite have a blue color that has been produced or enhanced by heating in a laboratory. Since its discovery, tanzanite has become the second most popular blue gem after the sapphire.


Rich Blue Color

Tanzanite was introduced as an alternate for sapphire, but it quickly became one of the most popular gemstones in the market. Today, tanzanite and sapphire remain the two favorite blue stones, along with aquamarine and amethyst. A unique gemstone, tanzanite attracts people with its unique beauty and characteristics.

The most-prized color for tanzanite is a pure blue, similar to fine sapphire, or an intense violet-blue. Gemstones with a bluish purple color are also popular, but less valuable. In any shade, pale colors are less prized than saturated ones. Most tanzanite has a light to medium tone and low to medium saturation.

Tanzanite is a versatile gemstone that comes in a variety of sizes and cutting styles. Tanzanite also competes with lab-created sapphires that are lower in price than natural sapphires. In that comparison, some buyers will select tanzanite because they would rather have a stone that was created by nature instead of one created in a lab.

When shopping for tanzanite beads, look for gemstones with a strong-to-vivid blue, purplish blue and violet blue color. These are the most valued gems, and the rich blue colors have universal appeal. In 2002, the American Gem Society made tanzanite one of the birthstones for the month of December.


Tanzanite is a pleochroic gem, which means it can show different colors when viewed in different crystal directions. This makes cutting a crucial element in determining the color the consumer sees when the stone is cut and set in jewelry.


Tanzanite will make a wonderful addition to your beaded gemstone collection due to its rarity, brilliant beauty, rich color, and high value. It is one of the ten top-selling gems in the market today, which is remarkable considering that it was discovered fifty years ago.

Despite its commercial success, it is important to remember that tanzanite is a precious gem, with the only known mineral deposits confined to a few square miles in Tanzania. There is only a limited supply of this natural beauty, so don’t wait to add tanzanite to your collection today.