Hot New Gemstones: Pink and Green Tanzurine Quartz from Tanzania
“The roads are dirty and rocky all the way through the bush. We go through small Maasai hutted villages. It’s difficult to get good equipment, so a lot is done with big picks and manual labor.” That is just a snippet of how Jonathan Bartky describes what it’s like to try to recover pink and green quartz rough to cut and polish into gemstones from Maasai tribal lands in Tanzania.
ABOVE: Cherry Tanzurine quartz still in the ground, with Jonathan Bartky resting on it; photo courtesy Jonathan Bartky.
Through his firm, Ariel Treasures, Jonathan is importing the material to the U.S. for wholesale distribution under the names “Cherry Tanzurine” and “Emerald Tanzurine.” In early January, he was offering both pink and green rough for cabochon gemstones and beads at the 2018 Quartzsite shows, then heading to Tucson’s Pueblo show at the Riverpark Inn.
Jonathan has been involved in gemstones and minerals since childhood, and has spent many years in the business importing material from Brazil and elsewhere under the name Bartky Minerals, which became a family business when his parents joined him. After a chance encounter with some of the “cherry” quartz, which an acquaintance had shown him two years ago, Jonathan turned his attention to this material, convinced his parents to invest in his new gem business, and headed to Africa.
“We are talking about northern Tanzania, near the Kenyan border, not far from the Serengeti Wildlife Preserve,” Jonathan further describes the area. Although “the locals do use many natural materials in their handcrafts,” he adds, “the Cherry is a new find on a mountain and was only discovered about two years ago. Tanzanians themselves are not yet familiar with it, and the only Tanzurine being used are the gemstones we provided to the Maasai women to make earrings and beaded crowns with.”
The mining operations employ locals, however. “We do have compressors so are able to use equipment such as pnuematic hammers and drills. But that requires generators and a good gas supply–so, really, manual labor is the mainstay.”
Much of the “cherry” is on the dark side. Some contains visible flecks of pinkish/purplish lepidolite mica, lending the quartz both color and sparkle. The generally more translucent “emerald Tanzurine” contains chromium, giving this quartz its green color. Currently, says Jonathan, he is selling “pieces of Tanzurine to stores in mostly 2- to 5-pound packages, and larger rough to decorators and lapidaries for cabs and spheres.” He adds that they are also starting to offer jewelry and do some of their own cutting.
In addition to the new quartzes, Ariel Treasures wholesales other gem materials and mineral specimens. These include cachalong white opal, ruby-in-zoisite, tanzanite crystals and rough, citrine crystals, smoky quartz crystals, amethyst, sunstone, garnets, tourmaline, blue and orange kyanite, and other gemstones.
Merle White is Editor-in-Chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.
Learn more about metalsmithing and gemstones in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine!