Things You Need To Know
The price of wisdom is above rubies, says Job in the Bible, implying that rubies were highly prized in his time. Indeed, the respect and appreciation for rubies has always transcended all geographical boundaries and social class.
The gold coronation ring of the English kings contains a large, tablet-cut ruby on which the figure of St. George's cross is engraved. Around the ruby are set 26 diamonds. Rubies are generously represented in crowns and scepters in the royal jewels of many nations.
Ruby has acquired special attributes from its admirers over the centuries. It has been regarded as a symbol of freedom, charity, dignity and divine power. The Burmese believed that gemstones ripened like fruit. The redder the color, the riper the ruby. A flawed ruby was considered over mature.
Large, gem quality rubies have always been very rare. The huge gems described in medieval romances and oriental literature were most likely exaggerated by the imaginations of ruby admirers and creative authors or were actually garnets or spinels.
Rubies and Sapphires are the two varieties of the mineral Corundum. Their exceptional hardness is surpassed only by diamonds. Red corundum is called ruby, and all other colors are called sapphire. The cut-off between ruby and pink sapphire on one end and plum sapphire on the other has long been a subject of controversy. Of course, gem dealers want the gem they're selling to be classified as a ruby because the name alone increases its value.
A few rubies have distinguished themselves because of their size or extraordinary beauty and are being guarded for posterity. The Louvre in Paris houses the Anne of Brittany Ruby, a 105-carat polished but irregular gem. The 167-carat Edwardes Ruby was donated to the British Museum of Natural History in 1887 by John Ruskin. This 167-carat gem was named in honor of Major-General Sir Herbert Benjamin Edwardes (1819-68) who saved British rule in India during the years of the Indian Mutiny. Two star rubies are displayed in American museums. The Smithsonian displays the 137-carat Rosser Reeves Ruby; and The American Museum of Natural History has the 100-carat Edith Haggin de Long Ruby.
The different geographical sources of rubies are known for characteristic colors and qualities, although they all produce a variety of gem materials. Burma is famous for producing the greatest amount of top quality ruby - a fine, clear, deep red. Thailand is known for dark red to brownish-red stones. Typical Ceylon (Sri Lanka) rubies are medium light in tone. And Africa is known for small, sheet-like, purplish-red material.
Burma is the most important source of ruby today. Other producers are the island of Sri Lanka-(formerly Ceylon), the countries of Thailand, Kampuchea (Cambodia), India and Australia, various localities in Africa and our own state of North Carolina.
A synthetic ruby is nearly identical to the natural gem in physical appearance, chemical composition and optical properties and can easily be confused with genuine ruby by unknowledgeable buyers. Only a trained geologist can tell the difference by locating telltale inclusions in the stone.
Some rubies display a luminous star when viewed in the right light. This is caused by the orientation of intersecting needles within the stone. The light reflecting off them forms a star. Stars may be seen on certain translucent stones that have been cut in a dome shape.
Ruby's dramatic color and regal heritage make it the choice of the most discriminating jewelry lovers. Fine, large rubies may be worth more than diamonds of comparable size. They make elegant rings and pendants. Smaller stones are also set in these pieces as well as brooches, bracelets, and earrings. Small rubies are popular for use in anniversary rings to wear alone or in the company, of diamonds. Rubies are stunning against a backdrop of white, black, royal blue or emerald green.
Since subtle differences in quality can make large differences in beauty (and price), it is important to select your jewelry from a professional who can guide you honestly and ethically in your purchase.
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The history of Tanzanite began in 1967, discovered by gem hunter seeking other known gems found in Tanzania and he stumbled upon this new “violet-blue” gem. It was a secret for many years until Tiffany & Co. in a marketing coup named it “Tanzanite” after its location of origin. Tanzanite did not make its way to the mass U.S. market until the late 1980’s. Although it was a beautiful gem with variations of violet, violet-blue, and even blue color, tanzanite was only available to the wealthier clientele. Thus it remained in rather exclusive circles.
As the TV Shopping Channels flourished with new Jewelry offerings such as QVC and HSN, they began to promote this beautiful “new” gemstone, tanzanite slowly received the recognition it deserved. Even retailers in the Caribbean made it a very popular tourist purchase to cruise ship travelers. The demand for tanzanite grew dramatically by the late 1990’s as more and more people around the world became aware of its beauty. It didn’t take long for the growing desire and demand of consumers world-wide for tanzanite to quickly create a shortage of supply. The supply of tanzanite was not able to meet the skyrocketing demand, and prices dramatically increased in the mid-1990‘s to late 1999, especially for Gem and AAA grade stones over 2 carats. Then in 1998, while the mines were trying to produce as much tanzanite as possible, heavy rainstorms and severe flooding in Tanzania brought about the collapse of the mines. It was a physical and emotional tragedy as hundreds of miners drowned or were missing and never found. Many of the mine sections were closed for many months. The weather was a major factor in the disaster but unsound and unsafe mining techniques as well as a disregard for environmental concerns or ethical policies contributed to the severity of the mining calamity. Finally, government officials and owners of the mines were able to create at least some degree of control over the production of tanzanite. The geologic fault blocks that had produced the majority of the TV quality stones and jewelry (lighter to medium violet and lavendar colors) restarted production quickly, but the top gem colors blue and deeply saturated stones ONLY found in “D” fault block still to this day has not begun producing any Tanzanite again. The mine shafts are still flooded and estimates are in the 50 million dollar range to even begin cleaning up that operation. So if you see a bigger stone (over 2 cts) and it is deep violet-blue or all dark blue it is from old mine production, sometimes far back to 1967 like some of our gemstone Tanzanites. Current mine owners and government officials are trying to find other sources around Merelani Hills which will produce the higher quality but there has been no encouraging news. While at this time the very light materials, and lower quality to medium quality stones continue to be produced in good quantities.
By the late 1990’s, Tanzanite was the #1 colored gemstone sold worldwide. Although the demand is growing day by day, the shortage of supply is in question. We still today here people on email or phone that “some jeweler” told them that there is no more Tanzanite and that mines are closed forever. This is a falsehood aimed at trying to convince you BUY NOW and that is wrong ! There is still many quality stones over 2 cts available if you are willing to pay $700-$2000 per carat and there is very good supply of lower quality to medium quality from $100-$400 per carat under 2 cts. Any investment in a gem grade Tanzanite or Fine piece of jewelry should be approached from the perspective; Do I like the stone ? Can I afford the stone ? Will I wear the stone ? If you can answer those questions YES then BUY IT ! We hope that the history of Tanzanite will become more positive in the future. The popularity of Tanzanite is really global because of the booming e-commerce gem business, while the origin is still only one location in the whole world: the Merelani Hills of East Africa Tanzania.
In the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is the only known mining site of tanzanite, called Merelani Hills. Many rumors have surfaced throughout the years concerning other locations, but none have been proven. You can almost see for miles as you stand on top of the hills and view the mines. The Merelani Hills (as people refer to the actual area of the mines) have been the host for the tanzanite rough since 1967. The once populated area, where thousands of workers were busy extracting quality rough tanzanite, is now pretty quiet. Not much action for an area, which gave the world its #1 demanded colored gem. There once were over 2,000 pits or holes in the ground with miners going deep into the surface of the earth to find its deep colored treasures. However, with time came the lack of productivity, causing many to abandon and leave this beautiful area. Today there are about 150 pits in the grounds with several hundred workers.
The Merelani Hills are divided into four blocks. Block A is currently mined out. Block B is the only official active area. Block C is restarting some production. Block D is where the fine quality once was very abundant. Although it is temporarily closed due to flooding, we still occasionally receive a parcel from Block D. They produce the finest gem tanzanite around; a deeply saturated violet-blue and sometimes blue only tanzanite found in large pieces-sometimes over 10 cts. Many are still anticipating a sudden miracle. Sudden discoveries of new areas with gem-rich soils, but dreams like these don’t come true. There is only one location for tanzanite and that is the Merelani Hills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Rarity of Tanzanites
Tanzanite is rare because of the single source of mining and gem grade colors, darkness, and sizes over 2 cts. are not common. The rarity of the supply slowly became an issue in the eyes of manufacturers, retailers and consumers. Sure the rarity added to the ambiance and the mystery of the gem, but it also added to the price tag. When the mines collapsed in 1998 due to severe flooding, this added to an already slow production schedule. People realized this beautiful gem would not be around forever. Although still produced, the rarity still plays a big role in the character of tanzanite. Many feel it will not be around in years to come. We would rather appreciate it today and not look to tomorrow. The major fault block D that produces the biggest, darkest pieces is still NOT OPEN as of 2002.
Taking Care of Tanzanites
Tanzanite is a relatively soft gem compared to topaz, sapphire, and diamond and thus should be treated carefully while being worn. The hardness is 6.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. This makes it similar to an emerald, but not as hard as a diamond. Once tanzanite is set into jewelry, it is safe to wear on a daily basis only. Ring designs should be protective, usually in heavy prongs, lower settings and bezels. Tanzanite rings should not be worn in all circumstances such as washing dishes, working in a garden and other rough situations. Tanzanites do scracth, so the repeated task of “filing” papers in and out of a drawer may cause scratches.
Qualities of Tanzanites
There are basically four grades or qualities of tanzanite: AAA, A, B and C. All of the tanzanite available on tanzanitegem.com is prices for A Quality stones or better. This is the finest quality readily available in the retail market. We do have a limited amount of AAA tanzanite, which is extremely rare. If you wish, you may ask to upgrade your order to AAA Quality. We will try to upgrade your stone if possible, all of our descriptions will not grade.
Below we’ve provided a clarification of the four qualities of tanzanite. The above gem color chart illustrates the different colors for each grade. Please note that AAA Quality also has a flash of red in it that is not apparent in the photo and is only evident in extremely high quality cuts and colors of the very best tanzanite.
AAA Quality is the highest grade of quality. It holds a deep concentration of all three hues of colors. You will see a strong intense mixture of blue and violet hues with a slight reddish tone. This is a visible mixture of colors not comparable to any gem in the world. This quality is very rare and limited. These qualities are mostly found in one area of the mine in Africa, BLOCK D. Most retail stores never see this quality of tanzanite.
A Quality is considered the fine grade of the jewelry industry. It is available but limited. It is deep and rich in color and is the highest grade of quality that you’ll normally see in a retail store. This quality is the next best quality after AAA Quality. The color concentration is slightly lighter than AAA, but is still very intense in color, with violet-blue predominant hue.
B Quality is much lighter than A Quality. It may only have one of the three hues of tanzanite. This is mostly found with a lavender blue color and is much more affordable than A Quality. It is also not as rare as A quality. You will find very large quantities of B Quality tanzanite available in the jewelry industry. There are no intense hues of color visible in this quality. It is considered a medium saturating gemstone and typically found in smaller stones used in bracelets and in expensive TV jewelry.
C Quality is a washed-out color. However, it is still considered Tanzanite because of its composition, but this quality of tanzanite is Very light. It almost looks like glass. And is very abundant in supply. The color is close to a lilac blue. This is the predominant color used in QVC/HSN jewelry and most Mall Jewelry retail outlets.
The future outlook of tanzanite does not seem too promising. The production is becoming less every day, as the demand increases. No one knows for sure what will happen, but as we have seen throughout the years, the AAA quality was first to become extremely limited. Now we are seeing A quality become more limited. The B and C qualities are still produced in large quantities. Based on our experience in the market, we expect another five to 10 years of productivity of fine and medium qualities. The demand is just too great for a mine that produces so little.
With any beautiful gem also come many look-a-likes—or rather synthetic stones. There are many retailers that may display imitation or rather stones that look like tanzanite, and they sell them as tanzanite. For that reason, you really should buy your tanzanite jewelry from a reputable jeweler. We offer a manufacturer’s appraisal, along with a certificate of authenticity, with every purchase. Once you have determined the credentials of the jeweler, you can use various steps and precautions in order to insure authenticity. One good test is the refractive index. The RI of tanzanite is 1.69-1.70. This means that light bends at 1.69 degrees as it passes through the stone. This degree can be tested with a refractometer. Most synthetic or simulants are lab-grown “glass-like” tanzanite colors-very purple in nature. Also Russian grown Fosterite has been sold as tanzanite in some cases natural Iolite has been sold as blue tanzanite.
Supply and Demand
The supply and demand curve on tanzanite is textbook material. As demand increases, supply decreases. There just isn’t enough of the source material to meet the great demand that’s been generated for this exquisite gemstone. There has been a lack of the larger sizes of stones coming out of the mine for the past three months. Miners expect the lack of production to increase cost over the Christmas season. There have been a few roughs that were discovered recently, but the qualities ranged from B to C. Larger carat weights are very much in demand for this holiday season-—especially 3.00 carats to 5.00 carats.
Available Carat Weights
The carat weights of tanzanite can range from .02 to 140 carats. The carat weight of a gem is the industries standard measure of weight for a gem. As a tanzanite increases in carats, so too will the visibility of color and clarity. The larger the weight not necessarily defines a better quality and color. You can have a .50-carat (.50 ct) or rather a half a carat of tanzanite with better color than a 2.00-carat tanzanite. However, it is customary to see better color as size and weight increase. This is due to the physical properties that make stones under 1 carat difficult to be “A” or better. There are standard weights and sizes in tanzanite. Currently, tanzanite’s up to 2.00 carats can be standardized by weight. This means, a stone that weighs 1.25 carats can be duplicated very easily. However, a tanzanite that weighs 3.50 carats cannot be duplicated. This is why you do not see some earrings that have very large tanzanites. It is very difficult to match two stones over 2.00 carats to have the same color and clarity, but almost impossible for them to have the same weight. These larger stones are referred to as free size stones as opposed to Standard sizes or rather calibrated sizes.
The Colors of Tanzanites
With different qualities you have different color definitions. The true color of tanzanite is a deep mixture of periwinkle blue and violet, with a touch of red. The roughs, or rather the actual uncut stones, are taken from the mines in a brownish reddish color. It is only after being heated that the stones exhibit their distinctive blue-violet color. As the quality of the stones drops from AAA to C the color tends to get lighter. Fine quality bears deep color or saturation. C quality has no deep color. With any tanzanite, you will see that one shade of color over powers the rest. Based on its light source, the stone will have a stronger hue of blue or violet. The color of red is rarely seen unless the stone is a large size. There is not quality difference when one stone has a stronger hue of blue over violet or vice versa. The dominance of blue or violet hues is simply a matter or color preference. The main quality of a tanzanite is found in the depth and richness of the stone’s mix of colors. In the lower qualities, you will see lighter colors and also see more windows within the stones. (Windows refer to the opening of facets within the stone.) Windows make it difficult for color to bounce within the stone; they in fact allow light to go right through the stone. The fewer windows there are on the stone, the more color intensity available. This phenomenon can be reduced by finer cutting techniques. Many custom cut stones such as we have on our site DO NOT have windowing.
The heat treatment of tanzanite is not used to create color. All tanzanite are heated on natural fire upon cutting the stones. This heat helps to bring out the color that already exists in the stones. Heating a stone will not produce a better quality stone. If the stone is B quality it will remain B quality-even with the heat treatment, but a rich in color stone will explode with brilliance and fire when treated properly and cut expertly.
Most Tanzanite is flawless to very slight inclusion not seen even with 10x loupe. But lower quality stones can have natural needle inclusions, tiny fracturing or bubbles. Even in unusual cases a jeweler or dealer can damage a stone by dropping, knocking or chipping by excessive force, pressure or heat exposure. Tanzanite is a delicate stone that does not hold up well to ultrasonic machine exposure, jewelers torches, and “hits”. But Clarity in most cases is very good, bad cutting can sometimes give a stone an appearance that it is cloudy. Even bad heat treatments, which as seen above is done to all Tanzanites, can sometimes cause induced inclusions.
OUR CUSTOM JEWELRY DESIGN PROCESS
Discover the benefits of custom design jewelry through online communication. Not every customer is able to physically visit our store to tell us their idea or view their piece in progress. Our customers can tell us what they want from the comforts of their own home, approve an initial drawing and then review wax models, metal prototypes and the final product. YOU work with us through the entire process until the piece is finished to your exact specifications.
Jeff and his staff are nothing short of amazing! They were so knowledgeable and helpful throughout the process of "building" my one of a kind engagement ring! It looked amazing in the computer animated design but the end product is immaculate! Highly recommend them for all your jewelry needs, we will be going back!!!
Lauran Mace - Edmond, OK