Chinese mainland seen as promising market for rare stone from Africa
The blue-violet tanzanite gemstone embodies a romantic and mysterious charm that captivates global consumers. At present, the Chinese mainland and the United States are the world’s largest markets for the gem, which is only found in Tanzania. Tanzanite was the focus of a seminar held in March at the Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem & Pearl Show, organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC). During the seminar, a Tanzanite Foundation representative offered analysis of the development of tanzanite markets and spoke about the intrigue of the precious gemstone.
Natalie Shah, Marketing Manager of the Tanzanite Foundation, said that tanzanite originates from the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro where it was discovered by chance by Massai tribesmen in 1967. Commercial mining has since developed, and sales to European markets are picking up. Tanzanite is described as a trichroic crystal, radiating three different colors from three different crystal axes.
Sustainable mining advocated for the “rarer than diamond” gem
Ms. Shah said the Tanzanian government has split the tanzanite mines into four blocks – A to D. There is little difference in the quality of gemstones from the four sections, she explained, adding that the supply of tanzanite is stable at present. However, tanzanite reserves are limited and they are declining due to continued mining, which makes the gemstone “more rare than diamonds.” A non-profit organization founded in 2003, the Tanzanite Foundation aims to promote responsible tanzanite mining and educate global consumers on ethical sales practices for the sustainable development of the tanzanite mining industry.
In the past decade, Ms. Shah said the foundation has joined forces with many jewelers in introducing tanzanite to the mainland China and Hong Kong markets. “Tanzanite is widely popular in Europe and the US. We hope to bring tanzanite to more Hong Kong and Chinese mainland consumers for them to fall into love with the gemstone,” said Shah.
The Foundation participated in the Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem & Pearl Show for the first time this year, with the Tanzanite Foundation promoting the gemstone to global buyers at the AsiaWorld-Expo.
Good sales potential seen in Hong Kong and Chinese mainland
To provide further insights into this emerging gemstone, Sunil Agrawal, Chairman and Managing Director of Vaibhav Global, an Indian jewelry retailer, explained that natural blue tanzanite is extremely rare, and most of the gemstones are treated for color enhancement. “Heat treatment removes the brown hue from the stone and enhances its color,” he said. Mr. Agrawal also noted that heat-treated tanzanite stones turn blue or violet-blue, with both varieties being sought after by buyers. The difference in color does not affect the value of the stone, he said.
He added that the US and mainland China are currently the world’s largest markets for tanzanite, while strong sales are also seen in Europe and Japan. In view of this, his company is planning a tanzanite promotion campaign in mainland China, organizing seminars and a book launch to enhance consumers’ knowledge of tanzanite. Newspaper and online marketing campaigns are also being planned, according to Agrawal.
The Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem & Pearl Show was held March 1 – 5 at the AsiaWorld-Expo, while the 33rd Hong Kong International Jewellery Show ran from March 3 – 7 at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre.
For more information on the Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem & Pearl Show, visit www.hktdc.com/fair/hkdgp-en and for the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show visit www.hktdc.com/fair/hkjewellery-en.