Thursday, August 2, 2007

How Long Can Tanzanite be Mined?

Rockstar! Articles: How Long Can Tanzanite Be Mined?

By Colin Martin You hear it from gemologists and you have heard it from those gem shopping networks. The big question: How long can Tanzanite be mined? When will it run out? Will the price shoot through the roof when it does? Is it worth investing in? Let's take a closer look and see...

To begin with, it is important to note that shopping channels have developed selling into an art - hype is the engine which drives this. Their job is to get you to pull out your credit card there and then and buy buy buy! Hence they use hype in order to get you to do so. One of the favorite mediums used by the shopping channels in this regard is to get you to believe that Tanzanite will have been mined out by the end of the year and that the very next show they do will have substantially higher prices as a result. Whereas it is documented that Tanzanite will run out within 10 years or so at the present rate of mining and the present estimated remaining supply, it is certainly not going to run out tomorrow. Do not be fooled into making a snap purchase because of such hype. Buying a Tanzanite should be done with sober thought and research and the purchase decision made only after this has been done to ensure you make an informed purchase.

No gemstone discovered in East Africa has had greater impact on the modern world gemstone market than Tanzanite, a velvety blue variety of the mineral zoisite, first found in 1967, and named in honor of it’s country of origin by Tiffany & Co. in New York, who introduced the gemstone to the world in 1969. Tanzanite is only found in one place in the world, the village of Mererani in northern Tanzania. With the exception of a sharp drop in prices following a media scandal in late 2001, tanzanite supply has been steadily decreasing — and prices rising — since the late 1990s. The mine tunnels in claims worked by small-scale Tanzanian miners are getting deeper, to the point where specialized equipment is required to work the mines, and the cost of mining tanzanite goes up again. The tanzanite mines at Mererani are divided into sections. Some sections are operated under lease by large scale miners such as the South African company Tanzanite One.

This company runs a complete operation from mining, grading, and marketing the gems. It is working to have tanzanite accepted internationally as the December birthstone. Tanzanite gets its name from the country in which it is mined (Tanzania). The gemstone is quite hard but at the same time it is brittle. This brittleness makes the Tanzanite gemstone require special care when it's worn as jewels. One fact that is not so well known is that the Tanzanite gemstone in its original rough form is brownish in color. Heat treatment is used to bring out the blue and purple colors of this gorgeous gemstone. Given the very difficult terrain in which most of the Tanzanite is mined, it is no wonder that the price of this gemstone is quite high.

With the current supply of tanzanite being 'controlled' by the mine owners, prices are expected to continue to increase over time. In fact, many projections indicate that some day tanzanite could be the most expensive gemstone on earth. The opportunity exists today to purchase tanzanite relatively inexpensively (even at $600 to $700 per carat) when compared to the prices of fine rubies, sapphires and alexandrites which sometimes sell into the $1000's per carat. These purchasing decisions are not easy and give the consumer food for thought. It is my belief that a sound and thought out decision to invest in Tanzanite could be a profitable one.

I welcome your comments: Colin Martin Gemologist. E-mail-

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