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Manuel de Souza at the site of the find
Manuel de Souza with a find
Photographs courtesy John Saul

Tanzanite: Its discovery and early days. By John Saul

Summer 2007: InColor. Manuel de Souza was born in Goa in 1913 and moved to Tanganyika in 1933 after qualifying as a Master Tailor … On 7 July 1967 prospecting near the village of Mtakuja, southeast of Arusha he came across a transparent blue stone sitting on the surface of the ground and registered his claim on 25 July … He showed samples to John Saul, an M.I.T. geologist, who sent them to father, Hyman Saul in New York. Hyman showed them to Henry Platt, vice-president of Tiffany who coined the name “tanzanite”.

Manuel De Souza died at age 56 on August 21, 1969 a week after an automobile accident on the main road to Dar es Salaam … within a short time various fanciful versions of the tanzanite story began to circulate … His son, Angelo de Souza has written: “European gem dealers soon learnt the true story and Manuel’s discovery and his success swelled throughout Europe courtesy of social and factual magazines including Bunte (Jan 69), Der Spiegel, Jasmine (7/7/69), Time (24/1/69) and Life (9/5/69).

Manuel’s children, Catherine, Cosma, Maryanne and Angelo and other members of his family are now scattered in Tanzania, Denmark, Malta and the United Kingdom. For full text, 1607 words click here.

John Saul can be contacted at His son is a gem trader in Tanzania – check out his website

Photographs courtesy John Saul

1. Discovery of Tanzanite.
2.Indian merchants lose grip over trade in rare blue African stone. Arab Times. 20 July 2003
3. Gemmy dodger. By Teresa Levonian Cole. Financial Times. 29 Jan 2005.
4.Tanzanite: Mystery of the stone. The East African. 21 March 2005.

Peter C. Keller's in "Gemstones of EastAfrica" 1992, writes that the first report of tanzanite was made in July 1967 by Manuel d'Souza, a Goan tailor from Arusha, Tanzania who was prospecting for rubies and was shown some unknown blue stones by a Masai tribesman. He staked the first claims, then the secret was out.


Tanzanite is one of the more recently discovered gemstones. In July of 1967 a tailor named Manuel d'Souza from the Indian province of Goa prospecting for rubies was led to a deposit of blue stones by Maasai tribesmen.
(Granted, this means the Maasai discovered it, but few places or things are considered "discovered" until a foreigner names, promotes and markets them.)

D'Souza initially believed he had stumbled upon sapphire, but found that the material was too soft to be corundum. Laboratory investigation showed that the stone was a previously unseen variety of zoisite, already known in its green form. He registered four claims with the mining office. Hot on his heels was a former Greek army officer named Papanicholau who was already involved in several gem ventures in East Africa. The area, which became known as Merelani Hill, swiftly became riddled with mines.

D'Souza was unable to maintain close control over his claims and by his own estimate up to 80 percent of his gems were stolen from him before he even set eyes on them. Undiscouraged, he hooked up with an African mine owner named Alli Juyawata, and shortly after they were joined by Papanicholau.
This partnership was short-lived, ending in acrimony and court action.

The ABCs of Tanzanite

No recent gemstone discovery has had more of an impact on the world gemstone market than tanzanite. Portuguese prospector Manuel d'Souza discovered this gem in Tanzania in 1967 while searching for sapphire

Indian merchants lose grip over trade in rare blue African stone
NEW DELHI, (AFP) - After tapping a fad sparked by the film "Titanic" in Africa's rare blue Tanzanite stones, Indian gem and jewellery artisans are likely to lose out on a chunk of its global trade.

Tanzania, the only place where Tanzanite is found, is no longer keen to sell the rough stones to Indian firms which cut and polish them and sell the sparkling gems at a higher price in the world market. Instead, Tanzania wants to set up its own processing centres to get a bigger share of the trade.

This will cut off a major portion of the business for Indian merchants who first put Tanzanite on the world's shopshelves -- cashing in on demand triggered after Kate Winslet wore a blue stone pendant in "Titanic" symbolising her love for Leonardo DiCaprio.

Until now, almost 90 percent of the 16 million dollars in exports of rough Tanzanite gems from Tanzania were being sent to India for cutting and polishing.

"Negotiations between the Indian government and their government are under way," said Sanjay Kothari, chairman of India's Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC).

"What India has been suggesting is that since a manufacturing base cannot be set up overnight and has to be done by-and-by, India will train the people until they are ready."

Indian trade officials have suggested to Tanzania to continue exports until its domestic base is ready as blocking shipments of rough stones without having a setup for cutting and polishing would crash their market value.

"It would definitely harm their industry as miners will not want to mine them at all if there is no demand for cut and polished stones," said Bakul Mehta, vice chairman of GJEPC, who visited Tanzania last week to discuss the issue.

He added that setting up an entire cutting and polishing stone industry based on a single gem would be risky. "The strength we have here is we deal in a variety of stones -- emeralds, sapphires, rubies, diamonds and Tanzanite."

The arguments seem to have cut ice with Tanzania as they have dropped a proposal to stop the exports of rough Tanzanite gems altogether from July and now are thinking of exporting only a portion as sparkling stones, according to a letter received by Indian traders.

The missive was in response to a letter written by India's famed jewellers and gem cutters from the northwestern state of Rajasthan's capital Jaipur, for whom the stone accounts for around a quarter of their exports.

Jaipur's artisans have come to rely heavily on the Tanzanite business as they were the first to promote the gem in the international market.

The story here goes that the association with India began after an Indian entrepreneur from the coastal state of Goa struck fortune in Tanzania after Masai tribesmen led him to a deposit of the stones in the 1970s.

After he cut and polished them, they glowed with a rare blue fire equalled only by sapphire. However, the stone remained in low demand in the world market until "Titanic" was released in 1997 and spurred a run on blue stones.

Experts say that Tanzanite is a variant of a more commonly found green-coloured stone called Zoisite.
India's trade in the gem had hit a rough patch once before when several years ago media reports alleged that funds used out of the sale of Tanzanite were being funnelled to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

"That was all rubbish. The total market share of Tanzania in the world market is peanuts. It was cleared by the US State Department and established that there was no such link," said Rajiv Jain, convenor of the GJEPC's gemstone panel.

Since then, the controversy has died and trade picked up to normal levels, jewellers said.
Photograph courtesy John Saul

Source: Financial Times 29 January 2005
Gemmy dodger
By Teresa Levonian Cole
It is a tale of romance, intrigue and controversy. A tale that unites the unlikely personages of a Masai warrior, a Goan tailor and the president of Tiffany's in New York. Its subject, of rare beauty, was born millions of years ago when the clash of tectonic plates created the optimal conditions of chemistry, temperature and pressure. It slept undisturbed until the 1960s, woke only recently to a transient blaze of publicity, and is soon to vanish forever, if gemologists can be believed.

The story is that of tanzanite, the extraordinary blue stone that has been in the news of late thanks to the purchase of Afgem, now TanzaniteOne, and their efforts to impose the first-ever grading system on coloured stones (traditionally, it is only diamonds that adhere to a generally accepted scale). It begins, however, in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, in northern Tanzania, some 50 years ago.

According to the most accepted account, in 1967 a Masai warrior (attribution varies) came across a piece of translucent rock of vivid blue-violet hue some 40km south-east of Arusha, amid the metamorphic rocks of the Merelani Hills, and took the 10,000 carat rough stone to Manuel d'Souza, a Goan tailor and amateur prospector based in Arusha.

De Souza, hoping that the find might prove to be sapphire, in turn showed the stone to Dr John Saul, an MIT-trained geologist and gem dealer in Nairobi, who had already uncovered ruby and aquamarine deposits in Kenya.

"My father immediately realised that this was something special, but obviously not sapphire," says his son, Eric Saul, co-owner with his brother, Mark, of Swala Gem Traders in Arusha. "The colour was too deep. He had never seen anything like it. So he sent it to a lab in Germany, which ascertained that the stones shared the same chemical composition and orthorhombic crystallography as zoisite".

Zoisite itself is nothing to write home about; a relatively widespread mineral discovered in 1805 by the Austrian Baron von Zois. This stone, however, was different. The only transparent, gem-quality crystal of zoisite in existence, and coloured by the rare presence of vanadium, it exhibited a mesmerisingly rich purplish-blue vitreous lustre. With its only known source being a narrow strip of land, 5km by 2km long near Kilimanjaro, beauty and rarity combined.

John Saul hastened to cut the first ever blue zoisite gems - two large oval stones of 15 carats and 19 carats respectively - and sent them to his father, Hyman Saul, the then vice-president of Saks 5th Avenue, a store conveniently located next to Tiffany's, where Henry Platt, great-grandson of Louis Comfort Tiffany, was quick to recognise the value of the find.

Proclaiming this to be "the most beautiful blue stone discovered in over 2000 years", Platt re-christened the gem by the more euphonious name of "tanzanite", and launched it on the market in October 1968.

Tanzanite: Mystery of the stone
There is no conflict as to where the tanzanite is found in the world. But there is still no consensus as to who 'discovered' the gemstone. A special report from Arusha

There is no doubt whatsoever that the violet-blue gemstone tanzanite was discovered in the Mererani Hills of Tanzania in the mid 1960s and that the country remains the sole source of genuine tanzanite jewellery till today.

But despite the over four decades that have passed since the first find, it is still not clear as to who discovered the gem.

The government officially recognises Jumanne Ngoma as the person who discovered the precious stone on the hills of Mererani, a few kilometres from Arusha town.
A variety of Tanzanite Jewellery.
The late first president Julius Nyerere directed that Ngoma, from Same district, in Kilimanjaro region be awarded with a certificate recognising his discovery.

But other stakeholders oppose the singling out of Ngoma for credit and two other prospectors, Ali Juuyawatu and Manuel d'Souza, are frequently mentioned as others who could possibly have discovered the gem. Juuyawatu is an expert in mineral prospecting and a household name in tanzanite mining.

Villagers interviewed at Mererani, mention Juuyawatu as the first person they associate with tanzanite. His children, also miners at Mererani insist that it was their late father who discover the tanzanite but that he was not recognised because he died long before the blue stone became internationally acclaimed.

D'Souza, a Tanzanian of Indian origin, was a prospector in the wilds of Tanzania who later worked with Juuyawatu in the mining business, further confusing the issue of who discovered the stone.

Another explanation given is that d'Souza, a tailor, was led to a deposit of tanzanite by Maasai tribesmen including Juuyawatu.

Sammy Mollel, chairman of the Tanzania Mineral Dealers Association (Tamida), says credit should go to d'Souza. The president and chief executive officer of TanzaniteOne, Ian Harebottle gives the credit to Juuyawatu.

Daniel Saitore Kaaya, now 77, who at the time of the discovery was a village elder in an area encompassing Mererani, says it was Juuyawatu who made the discovery but d'Souza who introduced the stone to Henry Platt of Tiffany and Company, the US company which, named the new gem "Tanzanite."

This is a typically African, scenario: few places or things are considered discover until a foreigner promotes and markets them.

To settle the issue of who takes credit for the discovery, Mzee Kaaya says, "Why not simply say a group of herdsmen came across Tanzanite crystals, collected them up, bartered and traded until an unknown trader who knew about gems and the world market introduced it to the rest of the world on their behalf?"

In any case, it is acknowledged that a Tanzanian discovered the gemstone but d'Souza and Juuyawatu (or even Ngoma) went further than the local herdsmen when they officially staked a claim and began commercial mining.

D'Souza, one of the men whom Mollel says should be considered the "discoverers" of the stone, initially believed he had stumbled upon sapphire, but found that the stone was too soft for that.

Laboratory investigations later showed that the stone was a previously undiscovered variety of zoisite, already known in its green form.

D'Souza registered four claims with the mining office. Hot on his heels came a former Greek army officer named Papanicholau who was already involved in several gem ventures in East Africa. The area, which became known as Mererani Hill, was soon dotted with mines.

D'Souza could not control mining on his claimed stake and by his own estimate, up to 80 per cent of the gems from his mines were stolen before he even set eyes on them.

D'Souza and his partner Juuyawatu were later joined by Papanicholau, but the partnership was short-lived, ending in acrimony and court action.

The Tanzania government took control of the mines in 1971, under the name Tanzanian Gemstone Industries, and they were turned over to the State Mining Corporation (Stamico) in 1976. Alas, stamico's mining methods allegedly reduced production drastically.

By the end of the 1970s, Tiffany's which had named and promoted tanzanite, stopped purchasing it because of erratic supply.

In the late 1980s, the government of Tanzania "lost control" of the Mererani mining area and thousands of artisan miners flocked in, but by 1991 the government regained control and has since been issuing licenses to private domestic mining companies.


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