Most mining is still performed by individuals under what would be considered primitive conditions. Blocks B and D, still actively in production, contain hundreds of small mining operations. Block C, which has been modernized by an international concern, is the only state-of-the-art facility in the entire mining district. Unfortunately, even with high-tech equipment and analysis, the mining of tanzanite is still a difficult task.
Tanzanite was discovered around 1967 in Tanzania, near Arusha. According to legend, tanzanite was discovered when a Masai tribesman found the sparkling stones in the remnants of a lightning fire, which had evidently heated the brown stones to a vivid blue. This led to the realization that heating zoisite--an opaque, usually brownish mineral--turns it beautifully transparent and blue. Tanzanite is a relatively new gemstone in the world of gemology and jewelry, and though its history is brief, it is no less illustrious than many ancient gems.
Tanzanite is a 6.5 in hardness. Most tanzanite is found as an amber to brown color, turning a stable and permanent violet-blue upon heating, but some is found naturally blue and does not require heating. The mineral zoisite is found in a variety of colors. Most of these are described as zoisite along with their color, such as green zoisite; but many are labeled as pink tanzanite or red tanzanite to create better recognition of the gemstone. Ocean tanzanite is a variety that shows both green and blue hues.
With the advent and growth of television shopping networks, tanzanite has established itself as a major player in the colored-stone market. Sales of tanzanite continue to grow as tens of millions of homes are introduced to this exotic and beautiful gemstone. The proliferation of online shopping has also helped to increase its popularity.
Unfortunately at present, tanzanite is considered a finite resource. Based on historical data and the current mining environment, experts in the field estimate that tanzanite mines have approximately a 12-year life span. If no other sources are found, the history of this beautiful and highly prized gemstone may be cut short.
There is still hope that with the emergence of new technologies and additional exploration, other sites may be discovered. If not, then be thankful if you are lucky enough to own one of nature's most beautiful creations.