The Complete Tanzanite Guide

Tanzanite Consumer Information

As provided and validated by various gemmological organizations, laboratories and the "World Jewelry Confederation CIBJO"

Care

Tanzanite is delicated and should be treated with the utmost care
Clean with damp cloth and/or soapy water only
Tanzanites in large sizes, and rich colour are desirable for collections. Some tanzanites are carved or sculpted by famous lapidary artists and as such are considered collectible.

Finally, multi colour transparent zoisites (fancy tanzanites) are also sought, particularly green and pink. On extremely rare occasion, collectible cat’s eye tanzanites are fashioned.

Treatment

Heating causes a change of colour from brown, purple or grey to bluish purple to purplish blue
The yellowish brown colored stones are usually (light) heat treated to result in the blue colors associated with tanzanite

Color

Many consider tanzanite to have the finest blue hue of all gemstones
It is also trichroic, meaning that light entering the gem is split into 3 different wavelengths. As a result, tilting the gem in 3 different directions one is sometimes able to see 3 different colors
Tanzanite is extremely light sensitive, with incandescent lighting tending to shift its color to the violet side. The best pieces show an intense blue under any light

Clarity

Many tanzanites tend to be remarkably clean and transparent. The standard is therefore eye-clean stones
Fingerprint inclusions are sometimes present
Very rare, tiny, parallel, hollow tubes in some tanzanites cause chatoyancy (cat’s eye effect)

Cut

In the market, tanzanites are found in a variety of shapes and cutting styles
Ovals and cushions are the most common, but rounds are also seen, as are other shapes, including emerald cuts, trillions, etc.
Cabochon-cut tanzanites are not often seen

Coatings: A New Tanzanite Treatment Uncovered CAMEO

Coatings used to give tanzanite a deeper (blue) color?

The American Gem Trade Association Gemological Testing Center (AGTA-GTC) and American Gemological Laboratories (AGL) received a number of faceted tanzanite samples recently in New York that were determined to have been treated with a coating. Evan Caplan of Omi Gems Inc. sent samples to several labs after a light repolishing of a few stones resulted in a noticeable loss of color, according to AGTA-GTC and a treatment was suspected.

“Until now, we had not identified a coating on tanzanite to improve its color,” said Dr. Lore Kiefert, director of the AGTA-GTC.

Coating on tanzanite observed

This surface treatment, which had been worn away during a gentle repolishing, gave way to a stone with a lighter color. The cobalt coating was easily seen under an X-ray fluorescence spectroscope. Surface coating is not considered to be a permanent treatment. The tanzanite stones were examined under a microscope. As the photos indicate, the coating was worn away along the junctions of the facets and also at the culet. Another telltale indication for the cobalt coating was a slight iridescence on the facet’s surface in reflected light.

Christopher Smith, AGL vice president and chief gemologist, said, “Although the coating is not immediately obvious, careful examination with a microscope and in immersion provided clear indications of the coating in most instances. “This was evident by abrasions along facet junctions and at the culet where the coating had worn off, as well as a subtle iridescence when viewing the surface with reflected light,” Smith said.

Advanced analytical testing identified that the coating contained cobalt. “The most reliable means to substantiate the presence of the coating is the use of X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy,” Kiefert said. “The coating is colored by cobalt, which is readily detected using this analytical technique.”

Normal heat treatment of tanzanite

Although the gemstone industry has become very familiar with the practice of heating zoisite to achieve the best violet to blue color in tanzanite, these stones represent the first time either lab has identified a color-enhancing coating on tanzanite, the labs reported in a joint statement.

Consumer fraud risk

The majority of the tanzanite sample was comprised of smaller calibrated stones. Fine color tanzanite in this size range is rarely sent to a lab and therefore would avoid detection unless closely scrutinized. “This is just another reminder that each and every gemstone should be fully examined to determine whether or not it has been treated,” Smith said. “Today, it is not uncommon to see stones that have been treated using multiple or compound techniques to achieve a particular result.”

Treatment disclosure always required

Kiefert and Smith emphasized that any treatment used to modify the color of a gem should be disclosed. “Coatings in particular are not considered permanent and in the U.S. and are required by FTC guidelines to be properly disclosed at the point of sale,” they reported in a statement.

A new treatment: coated Tanzanite
A new treatment: coated Tanzanite
Tanzanite Treatment Uncovered
Treatment: Tanzanite with Cobalt Coating Worn Away at Culet
Tanzanite Treatment Cobalt Coating
Iridescent cobalt coating on tanzanite. A new treatment

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As provided and validated by various gemmological organizations, laboratories and the World Jewelry Confederation CIBJO