What are the Characteristics of Tanzanite?
Tanzanite is the blue to violet form of zoisite crystallizing in the orthorhombic system. With a refractive index of 1.69-1.70 and a specific gravity of 3.35 this gem is unusual for it trichroic nature. Most gems are dichroic, showing two colors, and a few are monochromatic including garnet, spinel and diamond which show only one color. In the rough tanzanite shows three different colors on the a,b and c axis of the crystal. These are blue, violet and yellow. This trichroism gives the rough a reddish brown color with blue undertones which is known as diesel in Tanzania because of its similarity to the color of diesel fuel as it appears in a fuel container. When the gem is heated to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit the yellow is removed leaving the blue and violet colors we know as tanzanite.
How is Tanzanite Different From Other Gems?
Tanzanite can be separated from other gems in the rough because of it unique look caused by the trichroic nature of the gem. The naked eye is often all that is required although a dichroscope is a definitive identifier as it separates the three characteristic colors into separate windows when the rough is viewed using transmitted light. Once the gem is cut and heated the dicroscope is less definitive as it now appears as two colors and the refractive index and specific gravity become useful in separation from imitators. The dichroscope can still be of use to separate tanzanite from glass imitations as glass will show only one color and tanzanite will as a heated gem still show two colors, the blue and the violet. The most common imitation of tanzanite is synthetic forsterite and this can easily be separated by its lower refractive index and strong doubling of the back facets when viewed through the crown. Also useful is the Hanneman tanzanite filter.
New Tanzanite Treatment
A new treatment can pose significantly higher risk to the novice and expert alike. This is a surface coating used to intensify the color of natural tanzanite and therefore increase its apparent value. This treatment is more difficult because the gem is tanzanite and the dichroism is similar, the refractive index, hardness and specific gravity are the same as untreated material. Magnification of the surface of the gem looking for the treatments tell-tail characteristics is required for identification.
Tanzanite Certification Service
I am often asked for a certificate of authenticity for what we sell as many of our competitors give this to certify that their stones are natural. This document is only as good as the person producing it and it is typically the seller who makes up this document. I do not believe this is a legal document so we choose to provide an appraisal which is a legal document giving you rights to exactly what it describes. We can provide a grading certificate from the Gemological Institute of America, which will identify the gem as natural but it will not give a quality grading of the gem. The cost is $125 and takes from 3-4 weeks.
Interested in Tanzanite? Check out Steve Moriarty's recent trip to Tanzania in November 2014 to see what is coming out of the mines!