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Tanzania

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.

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Tanzania is currently the only place one can find Tanzanite.