Tanzania and eastern and southern Africa, as a whole, are the most significant producers of gold, diamonds, and other precious gemstones. Hosting the world's largest diamondiferous kimberlite pipe to date, the country's value in the public eye grew even more in the 1960s for the discovery of its crown jewel, the intense purple-blue Tanzanite. Named after its country of origin, the rare variety of blue zoisite can only be found at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, in the Merelani region.
While the mining of gems in Tanzania first started through individuals and private companies, the government has now also established the Tanzania Gem Industry which oversees the extraction of the gems and the mines. With over 50 varieties of stones cataloged but few consequently mined to date, Tanzania is a land full of promises for the gem industry with latent potential which begs to be explored.
While most countries usually only have one single source gem, if any, the specific geological conditions in Tanzania have granted it multiple gems exclusive to the region and a list of unusual phenomenons in wider-spread stones too.
As the term implies 'single-source' gemstones can only be found in one country or region where they are mined. While some precious stones like diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and more are widespread and actively extracted in multiple areas around the world, other stones are inherently exclusive.
For a single-source gem to be born, the geological conditions in place need to be extremely specific. Geological mapping of Tanzania which reflects the geological history of the African continent as a whole has revealed a series of geological environments from the evolution of the Archean Shield, followed by metamorphism, the reworking of the continental rocks, pre-rift magnetism followed by active rifting.
During the period of rift-related intrusive and extrusive activities concentrated in the Northeast and Southeast areas of the country, is when the highest stand-alone volcanic peak in the world, Mt. Kilimanjaro was formed. It was also during this period of the East African rifting event that Tanzanite was formed.
Tanzanite is a unique occurrence of blue zoisite crystals found exclusively near the Merelani Hills. The unique color of Tanzanite is due to the presence of Vanadium in the rock formation. This gemstone is famous for its trichroic abilities showcasing tones of deep blue in white light and violet in more incandescent lighting with instances of red undertones. Whether as a ring, necklace, earring, bracelet, or more, the alluring colors of Tanzanite make it a statement jewel, often associated with boldness, character, and fortune. As a matter of preference, Tanzanite offers a wide range of colors from subtle and delicate lilac coloring to a vibrant deep blue with undertones of purple.
Further complimenting this soulful gem, its rarity has only amplified its value. Often related to the rich history of the country and its mythical Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzanite is as unique and remarkable as its home and the events that caused its formation. Known as the ‘Gem of a generation’, Tanzanite mines have been estimated to completely run out in the next few decades. The gem has thus acquired incredible collectible value as once the mining stops, the only way to purchase Tanzanite will be through the resale of secondhand jewelry.
Since its first time in the spotlight, multiple iconic jewelry pieces have been made from Tanzanite gemstones. British designer Kat Florence has had the privilege of working with one of the largest Tanzanite stones ever auctioned. Named the ‘Namunyak’, this flawless gem reached up to 563 carats before it was recut and boosted a deep royal velvet blue color when viewed from the front, as well as deep purple from one side and pinkish red from the other. This stone was expertly cut into a cushion shape and set into an intricate necklace worn by actress Sarah Jessica Parker during a regal photoshoot for renowned photographer Peter Lindbergh. The necklace was later sold at an auction and the proceeds were donated to charity helping build a school in Nepal.
While cherry quartz is now quite widespread, most gems found on the market are either synthetic or have undergone heat treatment to achieve their rosy red coloring. By some stroke of luck, Tanzania is the only known source of a special type of naturally occurring cherry red quartz known as Natronite. Often also referred to as Tanzanian Natronite, this stone ranges from deep red to light pink and has an interesting mining background.
Found only on a small stretch of Maasai land, the mining for Natronite is tricky and limited. As one of the last indigenous tribes in the world, access to the Natronite mining sites and land belonging to the Maasai are restricted and fall under preservational policies. The mining of the red quartz is thus done only following artisanal methods by the locals and tribesmen. Aside from the traditional herding and farming, the mining of Natronite forms an additional source of income for the Maasai.
Another instance of exclusively occurring stones in Tanzania is the purple Yoderite. Composed of a complex mixture of magnesium, aluminum, iron, and multiple other elements, the gem can only be found in the Mautia Hill region, near Dodoma. Yoderite is often found in schists interlocked with pieces of quartz, talc, and kyanite. While a new green-colored type of the stone has been discovered in the Chewore Hills of Zimbabwe, Tanzania’s Yoderite is usually a deep purple to dark violet and holds pleochroic capacities ranging from red, blue, and even brown.
While famous for its single-source gems, Tanzania is also among the significant producers of diamonds and other precious stones such as rubies, sapphires, tourmalines, garnets, and more.
Diamonds have taken the world by storm for as long as we can remember. The shiny transparent crystal has become a must-have in your jewelry box, whether in the form of discrete stud earrings or in an intricate necklace. Diamonds are almost always found in the most exquisite jewelry sets and can elevate any outfit.
In 2019, Tanzania ranked as the 9th greatest diamond producer in Africa selling over 402, 000 carats. The mining of diamonds is mostly focused in Northern Tanzania in Shinyanga and Simiyu regions. Among the most valuable diamonds extracted from the Tanzanian mines is a flawless 54-carat pink diamond which was offered to the future Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their wedding day.
Found in the mines of the Morogoro region, (Mahenge and Matombo area), Winza in the Dodoma region, and Tunduru in the Ruvuma region, Tanzanian rubies are among the world's hardest gems, perfect for everyday use. Much rarer than diamonds, the stones are incredibly sought after for their intense red color and shine. While some rubies can often boost an almost fluorescent glow, Tanzanian rubies, however, do not fully demonstrate this feature due to a high concentration of iron.
First discovered in the 1950s around the Umba River, sapphires of almost every color have now been found in other parts of the country such as Tunduru in the south and Winza in Central Tanzania. Usually of a rich blue, Tanzanian sapphires are also famous for their varying shades ranging from blue to green, yellow, orange, and even pink. Some of these gems also have color-changing properties showcasing light purple tones under incandescent light. Reaching an impressive 9 on the Moh's hardness scale, sapphires are also almost as solid and durable as diamonds.
Finally, we cannot talk about gemstones in Tanzania without mentioning the famous garnet. Similarly to sapphires, garnets found in the Umba region can vary between green, purple, red, orange, and some pastel colors due to the presence of different elements in their composition such as iron, manganese, chromium, and vanadium.
Home to a large variety of other famous precious gemstones such as emeralds, tourmaline, alexandrite, amethyst, and some lesser-known stones like scapolite and spinel, a country of great wealth, has these unique jewels of Tanzania. However, its crown jewel shall forever remain the legendary Tanzanite. With its unique blue base color and its changing tones, the stone is a real accessory for the bold and the sophisticated. Whether mounted into a ring, bracelet, necklace, or set of earrings, our catalog has a wide variety of shapes, colors, and carats that are sure to please.