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Having only been discovered in the late 1960s, the discovery of tanzanite is considered to be fairly recent - yet it is also one of the most significant gemstone discoveries of commercial importance in over two centuries, since the discovery of alexandrite in the 1800s.
Manuel de Souza, a gold prospector, discovered tanzanite in the Kilimanjaro area in Tanzania when he discovered a transparent blue stone on the ground. He initially mistook the stone for sapphire, but the hardness of the stone convinced him otherwise. After consulting his only mineralogy reference book, he concluded that the description of olivine (also known as peridot) was the closest match to the stone he had found. He soon realised that the stone was not olivine, but he could not determine its actual identity, with some claiming it to be dumortierite, while others argued it was cordierite. De Souza then sent samples of the stone to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in the United States, who correctly identified the gem as a new variety of the mineral zoisite and was thus scientifically called "blue zoisite".
The gem soon crossed paths with the President of Tiffany & Co, Henry Platt, who immediately recognised the stone’s potential and coined the name tanzanite. Tiffany & Co. swiftly created a marketing campaign to highlight the rarity of this gem, advertising how it could only be found in two places: “Tanzania and Tiffany’s”.
As tanzanite can be found only within a small seven kilometre stretch in Africa, it is considered to be one of the rarest gems in the world. Many experts who have taken the time to study the gem in depth have concluded that it has taken over 500 million years for the stones to form. It has also been noted that due to the unique factors present at the time of formation, the stone is unlikely to be found anywhere else around the world. It has even been referred to as the ‘gemstone of a generation’ as the stone’s supply will likely diminish within the next decade due to its limited supply.
Being a relatively young gemstone, there are neither myths nor legends surrounding the stone, but still people have found spiritual uses for it. Many modern day practitioners believe that tanzanite has the ability to calm one’s spirit and allow humans to explore their inner psychic powers. As tanzanite is a newly discovered stone, there are also many who believe that it was discovered during this time to aid in the process of a global spiritual awakening.