To date, there are no known synthetic tanzanites on the market. ‘Synthetic’ refers to a lab-grown gemstone with the same chemical composition and properties as a natural one. However, tanzanite is often confused with synthetic purple sapphire, cubic zirconium (CZ), and iolite (a purplish brown or colourless gemstone that is also one of the few exhibiting pleochroism). There are other imitations on the market that are far less known, but if you have any doubt, the best option would be to go to your local gemmologist or send the gem to a lab to have it analyzed. You can never be too sure!
Taking care of your tanzanite
With its 6.5 in hardness on the Mohs scale, tanzanite is a lot more fragile than sapphires or rubies and requires careful handling and cleaning. Ultrasonic cleaning is not advisable, but you can soak tanzanite gems in lukewarm water, wash them with soap, and wipe them off with a cloth. A sudden change of temperature or strong heat can be a detriment to your tanzanite, running the risk of changing its colour as well as breaking it—avoid soldering a ring with one at all costs. If you must do so, be very careful not to heat the stone too much. Even with a lot of precaution, tanzanite will develop abrasions over time, which is why most jewellers recommend consumers not wear a tanzanite ring every day or for sports or outdoor activities. With this in mind, you’re all set (or the tanzanite is).
The gemstone of a generation
Visitors to the mine are told by the mining company that tanzanite is the gemstone of our generation. Why? Given there is only one mine, and that mine will one day run out of gems, tanzanite is estimated to only be available for one generation, and future generations will only have old tanzanites on the market. In other words, it’s a good time to buy some! When the mine actually runs out, you can proudly say you were the first owner of that stone (and watch as the prices go up). Even today, scientists have no idea how to find a new source for this gem as they do for diamonds. Tanzanite truly is a miracle of nature.
Lauriane Lognay is a fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (FGA), and has won several awards. She is a gemstone dealer working with jewellers to help them decide on the best stones for their designs. Lognay is the owner of Rippana Inc., a Montréal-based company working internationally in coloured gemstones, lapidary, and jewellery services. She can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.