Tanzanite: The Gemstone of a Generation

A newcomer to the world of precious stones, tanzanites were not discovered in commercial quantities until half a century ago, near the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in the remote region of Merelani in Northern Tanzania. Compare that to diamonds, the earliest of which were believed to have been found in India in the 4th century BC, and emeralds, which date back to the ancient Egyptians, and this baby of the gem world has achieved star status in a very short space of time.

Mined in a single location, tanzanites are often referred to as the “gemstone of a generation” because this generation is likely to be the only one able to buy from the “first flush”, or primary deposit, of gemstones unearthed in Tanzania. It is believed that the mines will be depleted in around 25 years, which means it is becoming increasingly difficult to find large tanzanites in the most coveted deep-blue color.

Tanzanite had its first taste of fame when Tiffany began using it in its designs just a year after its discovery – the first jeweler in the world to do so.

Ranging from deep velvety blue to light purple, tanzanites, like all gemstones, are not uniform in color. Zurich-based gemologist and jewelry designer Doris Hangartner loves working with all the hues. “With its violet or purple component, it has an uplifting quality,” she points out. “The most prized tanzanites are vibrant, rich, deep blue with hints of purple. They shouldn’t be too dark but have a sumptuous blue hue.”

The paler purple varieties come from a more recent find in Tanzania and are described by Hangartner as having “an intriguing delicate color”. Whilst the most prized are the deep blues, she says that “color is a personal preference. The vibrancy of a tanzanite fascinates me more than, say, the calmness of a sapphire. It is an incredibly alluring gem.”

Some rare tanzanites come out of the ground blue or violet, which can usually be attributed to natural heating when the gems are still buried in the Earth. Very occasionally, a tanzanite will display no indication of heating whatsoever, making them the rarest of all tanzanites.

“Fine tanzanite has the deepest, richest combination of blue, violet and sometimes even burgundy shades,” echoes Temple St Clair. “Depending on how the stone is oriented during the cutting of the different facets, different variations of these colors will show. The very finest tanzanites, the pure blue variety, have a rich, bright electric-blue color.”

Hangartner also points out that, since tanzanite is not as expensive as other coveted blue gemstones, for example Kashmir sapphires, the cost of an excellent cut is reasonable. “Look for very well cut gems with good proportions and depth,” she recommends.

(Source: Claire Roberts)

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Ruby: the Gem of Kings

Many cultures have long considered ruby a stone of kings. Not surprisingly, ruby symbolism and lore have many associations with power, wealth, and their protection. Possessing a ruby purportedly benefited and protected the owner’s estates and assisted in the accumulation of wealth. Notably, this gem would help its owner acquire more gems.

When worn as a talisman, ruby’s mystical properties extended to personal protection. People believed wearing the stone on the left, the heart side, would allow the bearers to live peacefully. None could take their land or rank. The blood-colored stone would preserve them from all perils, even their homes from storms.

Ruby’s blood-like color no doubt encouraged strong associations with this life sustaining fluid. Those who risked their lives were believed to have a special connection to the gem. The ancient Burmese prized the ruby as the stone of soldiers. They believed it bestowed invulnerability. However, wearing it on the left was not sufficient. Only those who had rubies physically inserted into their flesh would gain this benefit. They believed they were safe from wounds from spears, swords, or guns. Other sources claim rubies and other red stones can remedy bleeding and inflammation as well as increase the body’s warmth.

Ruby’s inner glow seems to hint that perhaps it contains an inner fire. This visual effect may have inspired some curious bits of lore. A ruby placed in water could bring it to a boil. If hidden in a wrapping, the gem could shine through and reveal its presence. Stories are told of rubies that emit their own light. One was even described as “shining like a torch.”

All varieties of rubies were thought to hold similar properties. In addition to their protective powers, they reputedly helped control evil thoughts, dispel anger, and resolve disputes. However, darker rubies were considered “male” and lighter gems “female.”

When people in the Middle Ages encountered gems with carved images, they believed these were found this way in nature. Although these stones were carved in ancient times, they didn’t think humans worked them. They believed such gems possessed special powers. For example, in the 13th century CE work, The Bppk of Wings, Ragiel writes: “The beautiful and terrible figure of a dragon. If this is found on a ruby or any other stone of similar nature and virtue, it has the power to augment the goods of this world and makes the wearer joyous and healthy.”

In the past, some believed spirits inhabited rare and beautiful gems. The concept of gems as sentient beings in their own right may seem unusual. However, the belief that jewelry has “feelings” isn’t dissimilar. The mineralogist George Kunz notes this in the writings of Mme Catulle Mendes, when she tells of wearing so many rings because her gems feel slighted if she does not wear them. “I have a ruby which grows dull, two turquoises which become pale as death, aquamarines which look like siren’s eyes filled with tears, when I forget them too long. How sad I should feel if precious stones did not love to rest upon me!”

Hindus regard the ruby, known as “the king of precious stones,” as more valuable than any other gem. The Mani Mala describes the Kalpa Tree, a symbolic offering to the Hindu gods, as composed entirely of precious stones. This magnificent tree would bear rubies as fruit.

One of the ceremonial offerings Hindus leave at various temples consists of gems and jewelry. Regarding those who gift rubies, the Harita Smriti says: “He who worships Krishna with rubies will be reborn as a powerful emperor. If with a small ruby, he will be born a king.”

An 8th century CE Arabic book on dreams by Achametis discusses the significance of dreams of rubies. If a king dreams of a crown set with red jewels such as rubies, this indicates he will have great joy and fortune. His enemies would fear him even more. Other sources tell that dreams of rubies indicate success in business. For tillers of the soil, the dreams mean a good harvest.

With such a long and varied history, no wonder the ruby has acquired such a mystique. We all want our things to be the very best. Of course, ruby owners have a vested interest in their possessions, but the ruby has the reputation and beauty to back such claims. So, if you want a gem to increase your wealth, impress your rivals, and protect yourself from harm, the legends point to ruby.

(Source: Fara Braid)


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