A debutante in the society of gemstones, tanzanite—one of the newest and most exotically colored stones—was discovered in 1962. It was introduced into the marketplace by Tiffany & Co., who recognized its potential as an international seller and made a deal to become its main distributor. They promoted it with a big publicity campaign in 1968. It became popular almost overnight and it continues to grow.
But there have been wide fluctuations in the gem’s supply and price level, due mostly to Tanzania’s volatile political, social and economic conditions. Today, there is a relatively good supply of this material and prices are stable.
While many gemstones are found throughout the world, Tanzanite is mined in only one corner of the earth — Tanzania, Africa, hence its namesake. It is a variety of the species called Zoisite.
Most gemstones, including diamond, need enhancement through cutting or treatment to be enjoyed in jewelry. Tanzanite is heated to permanently draw out its exotic bluish-purple color.
Though wearable every day, remove tanzanite jewelry before engaging in sports, housework and gardening and avoid ultrasonic cleaning.
Cos Altobelli is a third generation jeweler and president of Altobelli Jewelers in Burbank, previously located in North Hollywood for 60 years. His specialty is appraising for all functions and acting as an expert witness. He holds a graduate degree from the Gemological Institute of America and the title of Certified Gemologist Appraiser from the American Gem Society. He is the author of three appraisal books and has appeared on ABC-TV’s “Prime Time Live.” Altobelli can be reached at (818) 763-5151.