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Tanzania is on the East Coast of Africa, with its shores facing the Indian Ocean. It is home to some of the oldest known civilisations unearthed by archaeologists and is located in what some people call the “Cradle of Mankind”. It boasts one of the largest and most varied collection of wild animal populations in the world, including lions, monkeys, wildebeest, antelope, cheetah, gazelle, crocodile and flamingo to name a few.
Approximately 120 different tribal groups are found here: one of the more well-known tribes is the Maasai, who fiercely guard their culture and traditions in the northern areas. The Maasai live in small, round, temporary mud huts, farming the land and herding animals. In direct contrast, the towns and cities of Tanzania bustle with day-to-day trading and economic activities, and boast many historical areas and cultural sites of interest to tourists.
Tanzania is home of the world-famous gemstone Tanzanite. It was discovered in 1967 near the northern city of Arusha, nestled in the Meralani foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. This extinct volcano stands 19,340 feet tall and is the highest point on the continent.
A lesser-known gemstone mine in Tanzania is the Williamson Diamond Mine which is famous for being the first significant Diamond mine on the continent outside of South Africa. It was established in 1940 by Dr. John Williamson and has been in production ever since.
The country produces a host of other gemstones too; indeed, it was Tanzania, not Kenya, where Campbell R Bridges (the Scottish gemmologist) first discovered Tsavorite Garnet. However, in 1967 the Tanzanian government nationalised the mine and Campbell left the country. He was later able to trace the same belt of gems to neighbouring Kenya where he rediscovered the gem in 1970.
Close to the border with Mozambique are the mines of Songea. These mines are producing some of the most gorgeous Fancy Sapphires in the world, with great clarity and amazing depths of colour. Their Rubies have breathtaking transparency and some say that once you have owned a piece of Corundum from Songea, you will never want one from anywhere else.
Rubies and Sapphires are also found in the Umba region, along with Rhodolite Garnet and Tourmaline; however, sources have told us that these mines are starting to become depleted. Likewise, in the north the Alexandrite and Emerald mines of Mayara are also starting to run out. Recently, though, Iolite has been found in the region. One thing you might find in common between many gemstones discovered in Tanzania, is that they generally seem to have above average clarity. I have yet to find a scientific reason for this, but if I look at all of the gems in my personal collection, a disproportional percentage originate from Tanzania.
Tanzania is currently the only place one can find Tanzanite.
GIA qualified Gemmologists
Members of the British Jewellery Association
Members of the Coloured Gemstone Assocation