If you ask any colored gemstone connoisseur, they’re going to tell you that tanzanite is becoming the foremost desired gem within the us . We also see this trend manifesting itself in Europe. American and European designers, collectors and tanzanite jewelry manufacturers are keenly aware that with just one relatively tiny and unique geological source in Tanzania, tanzanite pricing fluctuations have sometimes been extreme and have a tendency to maneuver with the present news and season of the year. In fact, wholesale tanzanite prices have quite doubled since early 2004, with regular price increases being passed to retailers on an ongoing basis.
It is tanzanite’s color and relative scarcity which has caused these dramatic price fluctuations. We all remember the times when one could purchase a really deeply colored tanzanite for around $300 per carat. There were even smaller tanzanites within the 1 to 2 carat range that had rich color. Just try finding one of these today! These tanzanites were mined mostly within the D shaft of Merelani Hill, just outside of Arusha, Tanzania. This area has since been depleted and new shafts are opened. The color being produced by these new shafts isn’t quite what Block D produced. This notwithstanding, much richly-colored tanzanite remains being produced and is out there.
Also, associated with color, many of us are astounded by the seeming glow of fine tanzanite under natural diffuse light. This is thanks to the very fact that tanzanite is pleochroic, which simply refers to the property possessed by tanzanite of exhibiting different colors when viewed along different axes. In tanzanite’s case we see blue, violet, and red. It is no wonder why tanzanite has its appeal within the market today.
With this supply of tanzanite being ‘controlled,” essentially, by TanzaniteOne Ltd., prices are expected to still increase over time, though at a more stable rate than in years past due, in large part, to a sightholder distribution network comprised, at the present , of 5 sightholders. In fact, many projections indicate that some day tanzanite might be the foremost expensive gemstone on earth. So, the chance exists today to get tanzanite relatively inexpensively, even at $600 to $700 per carat, in comparison to the costs of fine rubies, sapphires and alexandrites which sometimes sell into the $1000’s per carat.
For local tanzanite miners, when it involves tanzanite, the method of obtaining any sort of permit to mine are often expected to be met with an excellent deal of resistence. One only must check out the history of Afgem (Johannesburg) to work out this. Before TanzaniteOne Ltd. purchased all of Afgem’s interests, there existed a great deal of turmoil between the local miners and commercial tanzanite mining operations.
Afgem, as history goes, mined an approximate 8 square kilometer area at Merelani some 100km northeast of Arusha, TZ and this was referred to as Block C. They had been approved by the govt and conducted tanzanite mining operations since the first a part of 2000. Their plans were, at the time, noteworthy and that they had already invested many dollars in their venture. The local miners, however, didn’t appreciate Afgem’s presence and sometimes accused them of trying to force them out by creating a monopolistic environment. The newspapers were replete with stories of digruntled miners who feared that their only source of income would be jeopardized. The complaints, seemingly, weren’t unfounded since Afgem laser branded all of the tanzanites that they exported. The small-scale tanzanite miners were unable to afford this sort of branding equipment and therefore the result was that a lot of of their stones were mislabeled as fake or synthetic. The perception was that this was a kind of strong-arming the local tanzanite miners out of the business, since the rough they mined couldn’t be sold.
Then…there were some within the media, feeding off the fervor of allegations espoused by local tanzanite miners, that attempted to link Afgem’s alleged strong-arming issue thereupon of introducing apartheid, which the good citizens of Tanzania openly rejected. This perception created an uproar in local mining communities, but was seemingly dismissed within the mainstream global media outlets.
As if the local issues in Tanzania weren’t enough, in 2002 in response to a piece of writing that ran within the WSJ (November, 2001) alleging that supporters of major terrorists were involved in “tanzanite smuggling,” the U.S. State Department issued a press release emphatically stating that there was no link between the tanzanite industry and terrorism. This lifted a standing boycott of the gem by US jewelers and the gemstone was again marketed openly in the USA.
As of 2005, all tanzanites sold within the USA are sold under “The 2002 Tucson Protocol” which essentially states that the contents of shipped/invoiced tanzanite parcels are mined in Tanzania and have been traded through legitimate sources. The seller warrants that the proceeds from the sale of tanzanite are/were used for legitimate purposes. The seller affixes the tanzanite warranty sticker to all or any tanzanite they sell.
In summary, though tanzanite is very desired, it’s a posh history to follow. Through periods of erratic pricing fluctuations and political influence, it remains a highly sought-after gem within the retail jewelry trade.