Tanzanite blue and violet variety of the mineral zoisite

Tanzanite is the blue and violet variety of the mineral zoisite (a calcium aluminium hydroxyl sorosilicate), caused by small amounts of vanadium. Tanzanite belongs to the epidote mineral group. Tanzanite is only found in Simanjiro District of Manyara Region in Tanzania, in a very small mining area (approximately 7 km (4.3 mi) long and 2 km (1.2 mi) wide near the Mererani Hills.

Tanzanite is noted for its remarkably strong trichroism, appearing alternately blue, violet and burgundy depending on crystal orientation.[6] Tanzanite can also appear differently when viewed under different lighting conditions. The blues appear more evident when subjected to fluorescent light and the violet hues can be seen readily when viewed under incandescent illumination. In its rough state tanzanite is colored a reddish brown to clear, and it requires heat treatment to remove the brownish “veil” and bring out the blue violet of the stone.

The gemstone was given the name ‘tanzanite’ by Tiffany & Co. after Tanzania, the country in which it was discovered. The scientific name of “blue-violet zoisite” was not thought to be sufficiently consumer friendly by Tiffany’s marketing department, who introduced it to the market in 1968. In 2002, the American Gem Trade Association chose tanzanite as a December birthstone, the first change to their birthstone list since 1912.

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There is no universally accepted method of grading colored gemstones. Tanzanite One, a major commercial player in the tanzanite market, through its non-profit subsidiary, the Tanzanite Foundation,[24] has introduced its own color-grading system.[25] The new system’s color-grading scales divide tanzanite colors into a range of hues, between bluish-violet, indigo and violet-blue.
The normal primary and secondary hues in tanzanite are blue and violet. Untreated tanzanite is a trichroic gemstone, meaning that light that enters this anisotropic crystal gets refracted on different paths, with different color absorption on each of the three optical axes. As a result of this phenomenon, a multitude of colors have been observed in various specimens: shades of purple, violet, indigo, blue, cyan, green, yellow, orange, red and brown. After heating, tanzanite becomes dichroic. The dichroic colors range from violet through bluish-violet to indigo and violet-blue to blue.
Clarity grading in colored gemstones is based on the eye-clean standard, that is, a gem is considered flawless if no inclusions are visible with the unaided eye (assuming 20/20 vision).[26] The Gemological Institute of America classifies tanzanite as a Type I gemstone, meaning it is normally eye-clean. Gems with eye-visible inclusions will be traded at deep discounts.

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