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Zoisite is a mineral that includes several gem varieties, it would not be of significant importance if not for the discovery of the transparent blue to purplish-blue variety that has been given the name "tanzanite". This form of zoisite is the main gem variety and has become increasingly popular and mainstream ever since its recent discovery. The variety "thulite" is used as a minor pink gemstone, it is an inexpensive stone used for cabochons and beads. The term "zoisite" is rarely used on its own in the gemstone trade.
Ruby-zoisite is the natural combination of both ruby and zoisite crystals in a single specimen. Ruby-zoisite was discovered in northeast Tanzania by Tom Blevins, an English prospector. To this day, Tanzania remains the only source for ruby-zoisite. Blevins had initially thought that he had found vast ruby deposits in 1949, but it later turned out to be a green zoisite matrix with large inclusions of mostly opaque ruby. Commonly, date of ruby-zoisite discovery is considered to be 1954.
Ruby-zoisite is also known as "anyolite", a name derived from the Masai word for "green" (anyoli). Other name variations include "ruby-in-zoisite" and "Tanganyika artstone" (Tanganyika is the name of the former German and British colony, now the part of Tanzania). Ruby-zoisite can often be identified by its distinctive mottled colors and appearance. Rocks are primarily composed of green zoisite and large inclusions of black hornblende and red ruby, which create interesting patterns with its matrix rock.
Ruby-zoisite is very popular as an ornamental stone, which is often carved into figures such as birds and other animals and ornate decorative objects. Ruby-zoisite is moderately hard and suitable for most types of jewelry. Large cabochons are available, which are ideal for use as pendants; rings are also suitable for ruby-zoisite. On rare occasion, fine materials may be faceted. Tumbled and drilled ruby-zoisite beads are quite popular. Large oval shapes are most popular. Ruby-zoisite is not known to be treated or enhanced in any way.