Tanzanite brooch, Tiffany & Co. (Photo: Tanzanite Foundation)
From: The New York Times
By Melanie Abrams
May 10, 2018
When Tiffany & Company introduced tanzanite in 1968, the company was sure the semiprecious stone would be successful. (“Tanzanite is the first transparent deep blue gemstone to be discovered in more than 2,000 years,” a Tiffany vice president told a Times reporter the next year.)
But no one anticipated the creativity that it would still be inspiring.
Named for Tanzania, where the only mine still operates, tanzanite’s allure lies in its colors, including green, red, purple and blue, “depending on which angle you look at it,” said Melvyn Kirtley, Tiffany’s chief gemologist and vice president for global category management including high jewelry.
The new gemstone had an enormous effect on the house’s design style in the ’60s, Mr. Kirtley said, turning it from simple gold jewelry to colorful designs with large stones. Cases in point: Donald Claflin’s ornate 1968 diamond floral brooch with an 84-carat tanzanite and, in 1969, Jean Schlumberger’s fantastical winged-bird pin with diamonds, sapphires, rubies, a cabochon emerald and a large tanzanite as its stomach.
For the stone’s 50th anniversary with Tiffany, Reed Krakoff, the house’s chief artistic officer, has showcased it in two new Paper Flower collections introduced in the United States this month and at Harrods in London on June 21, then across Britain in July. The high jewelry earrings echo the colors of an iris with tanzanites ranging from soft blue to violet and blue sapphires; in fine jewelry, tanzanites accentuate abstract blossom designs.
Debuting at the Cannes Film Festival this week, Chopard’s latest Red Carpet collection includes a multistone choker with six tiers of tanzanite beads and a blue titanium-edged pink ceramic disc with a 12.4-carat pear-shaped aquamarine that “give a modern twist,” Caroline Scheufele, Chopard’s artistic director and co-president, said in an email.
The color also is an important element for Alice Cicolini, a jeweler based in London, who said she played “with the idea of tanzanite as a color pop.” She placed tanzanite beads on either side of the orange lacquered sphere in her multistone Candy Kimono Nibble necklace “to bring attention to the center of the necklace.”
She also added a tanzanite briolette to her blue topaz, sapphire and lapis lazuli chandelier earrings. “It adds movement between the flowers,” Ms. Cicolini said, “and that extra layer of articulation, and because the thing that is articulating has such a vibrant color, hopefully it catches the eye more.”
Annoushka Ducas, creative director of her namesake brand, has included tanzanite and diamond earrings and rings in her new Imperial collection, inspired by the Russian kokoshnik headdress. “I use it quite a lot with brown diamonds as I like the not-so-bling look and the softness of the brown and the blue working together,” she said. “If you set tanzanite with brilliant white diamonds, it has a colder more ostentatious effect, whereas with brown it’s more low-key and everyday.”
The Brazilian designer Yael Sonia captured a tanzanite gem in the black rhodium-plated openwork cage of her Perpetual Motion series. “The black rhodium cube makes the tanzanite edgy, and the tanzanite softens the black rhodium,” she said.
More literal uses of the stone’s blue tones have been made by the Canadian jeweler Holly Dyment, who created the iris in her evil eye ringswith tanzanite. And Wendy Yue, a Hong Kong designer, adorned a snake’s head with a triangular tanzanite for her new necklace, which has a matching ring.
Although tanzanites can be worn in everyday jewelry, they are not as hard as diamonds or rubies, so designers use various methods to protect the stones. After Mimi So, a New York jewelry designer, had 120 tanzanite beads threaded individually to create the tassel for a necklace, she strategically placed 18-karat gold flowers accented with diamonds or emeralds at the top of the grouping, helping them to move freely. The Taiwanese designer Anna Hu set a 102.15-carat tanzanite on her multistone pendant brooch with invisible bezel prongs — a secure yet delicate way to set the stone — so “all you can see are the vibrant colors,” she said.
Wallace Chan, a Hong Kong jeweler known for his innovation, creates extra-soft tools for his work with tanzanite. They include a polishing wheel made with leather from a sheep’s belly for the 15.90-carat tanzanite adorning his multistone Bridging Dreams ring, “to buff out the micro scratches on the gemstone to perfect its finish,” he said in an email.
Experts disagree on how soon the world’s supply of tanzanite will be exhausted, with some saying it is almost mined out. But some designers are still discovering the gemstone — “to keep a step ahead,” said Ana Khouri, a New York-based designer who was adding tanzanites to her ear pieces, including a new white-gold-and-diamond ear crawler with pink, green and blue tanzanites.