Saturday, March 21, 2015

Tantalizing Tanzanite: A Look Inside the Bold, Seductive Stone

I know its March and I should be talking about its birthstone aquamarine, but I just couldn’t contain my excitement over showing you this recent acquisition of ours! Not only that, it will also give me the opportunity to talk about what makes tanzanite awesome and what to look for when buying some for yourself.

This blue-violet variety of the zoisite family owes its infamy to Tiffany & Co. pretty much all the way. Having baptized it in honor of the locality in which it was found (Tanzania), the juggernaut New York house went on to become a main distributor of the stone. Their marketing campaign in the late 1960’s utilized tanzanite’s saturated color, general clarity and availability in large sizes to such a degree that it even rivaled the desire for better known gems of the world. To this day, these are the salient factors that will affect the overall quality of this stone.

Like most colored gemstones, tanzanite is sought after for its lively color. It is however, particularly celebrated for its distinct pleochroism. For the purposes of this entry, we can simplify this by saying that the stone’s structure allows different body colors to be displayed, depending on the varying directions that light passes through it.

Photo displaying pleochroism, as seen through a dichroscope. Courtesy of Bergamot Gems.

Generally speaking, one can expect to see in untreated materials varying combinations of blue, violet and green hues. If subjected to a heat treatment (as little as 300-400 degrees Celsius), the greenish color will dissipate, leaving the desirable blue-violet material that we commonly see in showcases.

An example of untreated tanzanite. Photo courtesy of

That being said, here are some things that should be known about tanzanite before buying: it is a material whose durability needs to be considered. Sitting in the realm of 6.5 on the Mohs scale (a scale that grades the hardness of a material), this is a stone that is much more susceptible to being scratched than let’s say spinel or sapphire. It is also brittle, meaning that knocks to the stone can seriously damage it if not properly cared for. For these reasons, it is very important to consider the shape of the stone as well as the setting intended for it. For instance, a marquise shape may not be ideal for this particular material because the points at the ends are especially vulnerable to breaking if knocked about. However, if set in a bezel setting (where metal is rubbed over the stone to fix it in place), this may aid in protecting it. A final note on caring for your tanzanite: a simple wet cloth should be used to clean your stone as opposed to steam cleaners and ultrasonic machines because these may permanently damage it.

Now that I’ve spoken about tanzanite generally, here’s what I particularly love about our stone:

Our tanzanite. For inquiries please contact us. Photo courtesy of Bergamot Gems.

  • Its color will rock your socks off…possibly out of the stratosphere. This specimen epitomizes the concurrent blend of blue and violet found in tanzanite.
  • It is a mixed cut, meaning that it utilizes different kinds of facets on the crown and pavilion. In this case, it is an oval brilliant in the crown and a Portuguese cut in the pavilion. This benefits the stone brilliantly by creating more depth and thus significantly enriching the color.
  • Weighing in at 7.92 carats, this makes for a very versatile stone; whether it be an awe inspiring dress ring, or an elegant pendant.

Tanzanite’s entrance onto the gem scene was just as bold and colorful as the stone itself. Since then, it has taken its place amongst the prized gems of the world. We’d like your thoughts on this: is tanzanite a leading contender for you?

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Let's go back to basics...

I was on a buying trip recently, when a fellow dealer made a comment which resonated with me. As he was assessing this large and intensely red spinel in every imaginable light, he discussed with the seller at great lengths about the cut of this $100 000 stone. As we walked back and forth between daylight and the light of the jewelry cases (to assess the stone's color in different kinds of light) he said the following thing: “We as buyers need to have the respect of the seller”. 

Here is an example of a rough red spinel found in calcite (photo courtesy of

It seemed only natural to think this; however upon reflection, I understood that it went further than that. He meant that if we were to spend the sums of money that the gem industry demands, the very least one should have in return, was the confidence of a good buy from a person one could trust. And if disclosure were not willingly given, it is our right to ask the questions that would open up discussion and command their respect. In the case of my fellow dealer, he ultimately walked away from the stone because it did not meet his standards.

Ask yourself this: Have you ever asked the clerk behind the counter if the item you were buying had particular needs or required special care? Or if someone says that an item is synthetic, what exactly does that mean? Questions such as these may help you narrow down your choices. That being said, my first and most important counsel for gem buying is this: Be curious. If the answer to a question is not satisfactory, ask another. Don’t feel bashful about pursuing the issue, since ultimately you will be the one that will own the item. Setting budgets and having a sense for what you are looking for are always helpful starting points, however, being curious will enable you to make an informed decision.