Cubic Zirconia and Tanzanite Rings

Article Written By Nena | Category: Tanzanite Rings

Cubic zirconia rings and tanzanite rings have nothing in common, but they are often misleadingly spoken about in the same breath, or advertised side by side, especially on home shopping channels and by some merchants who do not take the time to explain their products to the customers.

However, this problem cannot be blamed entirely on jewelry shops, nor is it totally an advertising hoax. There are two very good reasons why cubic zirconia rings and tanzanite rings are linked together and confused:

  • There are imitation tanzanite rings made from blue-violet glass and others that are synthetic fosterite called “tanzanique” which are frequently not differentiated from true Tanzanite.
  • Tanzanique is Forsterite while Tanzanite is a rare precious gemstone called Zoisite. Imitation tanzanite rings (tanzanique and blue glass) are inexpensive and are frequently mounted in settings with cubic zirconia, or vice versa, cubic zirconia rings are accented with imitation tanzanite. Thus we hear tanzanite and cubic zirconia in the same context.
  • There is also a variety of cubic zirconia that has been treated to have a periwinkle-blue-violet or a rich violet-purple color that mimics tanzanite. These are in fact 100% cubic zirconia rings and not tanzanite at all. These blue cubic zirconia rings may fool you, and may be very beautiful and affordable, and may also be called “tanzanite cubic zirconia rings”, but they have nothing to do with real tanzanite gemstones.
  • Because tanzanite is such a rare gem and the supplies are very limited (due to it being mined in only ONE area of the world), and because it is an unusual blue color, and because it is extremely popular, many imitation tanzanite rings have recently cropped up to supply the demand. There is no problem with this, but you, the consumer, should be aware what you are buying.

Is it Tanzanite, Tanzanique or a blue Cubic Zirconia ring? It’s your job to be informed before you buy because you will find a good quality tanzanique or blue cubic zirconia ring for $20 or $30, or a low quality genuine tanzanite ring for $50 or $60, or a high quality genuine tanzanite for more than $6,000.

What is Genuine Tanzanite?

Tanzanite_Unheated

Tanzanite Cut by Steve Moriarty

Tanzanite is Zoisite, a very unusual and extremely rare mineral (in its natural state reddish brown) that after being heated (to 500-600 °C) is a dazzling sapphire-violet/ periwinkle blue-purple/plum-violet color gemstone. A true tanzanite stone is said to be rarer, and more valuable, than a diamond. This is because there is only one area on earth where it is known to exist – near the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, Northern Tanzania, Africa.

It is a relatively new gemstone discovery. The first tanzanite was noticed (it is claimed to have been after a grassfire) in 1967 by Maasai tribesmen and then by Portuguese Manuel D’Souza (who at the time searched for sapphire) who consulted his find with a geologist named John Saul in Nairobi (who also discovered ruby deposits in Kenya), and sent the tanzanite to his father Hyman Saul who at that time was vice president at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York.

How convenient was that? Nevertheless, it appears to have been Mr. Henry Platt of Tiffany & Company who actually changed the difficult to pronounce geological term “Zoisite” to “Tanzanite” and went on to popularize the gemstone.

Is the Supply of Tanzanite Depleted?

The main mining of tanzanite occurred during 1967 through to 1972, after which the mining came under the control of the government of Tanzanian, who in 2003 banned the export of tanzanite to India which affected international distribution of tanzanite rings and jewelry. It is feared that the ban will increase and terminate international tanzanite jewelry production forever. However, there is, according to reports, one company that is allowed to mine and export tanzanite internationally up to the present.

So tanzanite is currently being mined. It is also being exported primarily to Germany, India, Israel and the United States. However tanzanite has an unstable future. It is not known how extensive the vein of tanzanite is and during the past 40 years (approx.) of mining the production has been unpredictable and the prices have risen accordingly. That is why many advertisers use this to push substandard or imitation tanzanite products and cubic zirconia rings as tanzanite rings.

How is Tanzanite Graded?

Tanzanite_Ring_Emerald_Cut

Because of all the difficulties to obtain genuine tanzanite, there is no international standard grading system such as exists for other gemstones, even cubic zirconia rings are grades better. The best available guide is the GIA system (Gemological Institute of America). However, commercially sold tanzanite is simply divided into colors and hues either blue-violet or purple-blue and different jewelers and distributors will grade it differently depending on the erring setting and cut and color.

Natural tanzanite is trichroic, which simply means that there are three color ranges in each stone; so it must be heated to bring out the two colors in the gamut of reds and blues (which makeup the purple-periwinkle tones) that it’s famous for.

All commercially available tanzanite is heated to bring out the blue.

There were only a few blue tanzanite gemstones found in the 60’s that were near the surface and had already been subjected to heat by natural grassfires.

Classification of Tanzanite

Tanzanite is classified a type 1 gem

  • VVS tanzanite should be flawless when subjected to 10X magnification under a loupe. It should not have feathers, clouds, or marks of any kind.
  • VS tanzanite may have slight faults when examined under a loupe but are invisible to the eye.
  • SI1 – SI2 tanzanite will have small noticeable defects.

The best and clearest tanzanite stones are VVS or VS.

Many jewelers use a grading system from “A” – any number of AAAAAAA…, which means Grade “A” is the lowest and the more A’s the better. However more than 3 A’s is just a marketing device that means nothing at all.

AAA is the best.

There are a few tanzanite buying guides that evaluate tanzanite quality if you search online, but I warn you it is quite confusing.
Some things to watch out for:

  • The best tanzanite is block D-AAA (a term given by the Tanzanian government to the region where the stones are mined. There are 4 blocks: A – D. High quality AAA tanzanite may come from any block), however, true block D AAA tanzanite is so rare that it is doubtful you will find these gems online or on a home shopping network peddling tanzanite rings.

    Remember that only about 1% of tanzanite gemstones will fit into this high category and all are purchase by top jewelers and designers since they are very expensive. If you find AAA affordably prices or mixed with cheap jewelry it is likely a lower grade. There is nothing wrong with tanzanite rings made from lower grade stones so as long as you know what you’re buying. Consider the price. If it’s less than thousands of dollars it’s probably not AAA.

  • Be careful of coated stones in tanzanite rings, tanzanite earrings and tanzanite pendants if you want the real thing. Cheap jewelry with inexpensive rings will use tanzanite that is of poor grade and low color and coat it to appear richer and deeper. They look great, but if you wanted the genuine color you may be disappointed. Take note that it’s illegal for a jeweler or merchant to sell you a gemstone without informing you it’s been coated.
  • Don’t let color changes scare you off into thinking it’s an imitation. Tanzanite is known to change color depending on the light. It can be red-violet, and even appear slightly pink, if viewed under yellowish household lighting.
  • Tanzanite is soft. It can scratch, crack and break easily with sudden temperature changes.

  • Do not use steam or ultrasonic cleaners that some jewelry shops use for professional cleaning.
  • Don’t let just any jeweler resize or work with your tanzanite ring or jewelry. Tanzanite is delicate and can break easily if the jeweler is unfamiliar with the stone or overheats your ring when you resize it.

Tanzanite Trivia: Tanzanite is considered the official 24th anniversary stone. It is also a birthstone choice for December, along with the traditional blue Zircon.

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