Tanzanite vs Sapphire - Which is the better blue gemstone?

Helping you address the tanzanite/sapphire confusion during your next blue gemstone purchase!


Just how different and how similar are tanzanite/sapphire to each other? Find out from this insightful write-up! 

When it comes to choosing a gemstone, colour is often the primary factor. As long as the gem is durable enough for its purpose, colour wins over other parameters. Among the wide spectrum of coloured gemstones available, blue gemstones are undoubtedly some of the most preferred variants that have captured the fascination of jewellery users and enthusiasts alike. 

And if you think about a blue gemstone, blue sapphire is bound to be the natural chain of thought. However, from a visual standpoint, a hidden gem (pun intended!) is often mistaken for a blue sapphire: tanzanite



Blue Sapphire

Sapphire is a precious gemstone of the mineral corundum family and comes in a wide range of colours that include blue, green, black, white, pink, purple and yellow. However, the basic essence of sapphire is associated with the colour blue. Blue sapphire is among the most popular gemstones globally and is usually associated with wisdom, integrity and royalty. In fact, blue sapphires have become the most popular gems for engagement rings. 

They are tough, durable and resistant to scratches. As such, it makes blue sapphire ideal for everyday wear and use. Fun fact: red corundum is known as ruby. 




Tanzanite is actually a relatively recent gemstone discovered in the 1960s. While tanzanite's physical properties are decent, its rarity sets it apart from other gems. In fact, tanzanite is one of the rarest gemstones and has only a single known source of origin: Tanzania. 

It has a beautiful blue-violet hue and can display various shades when viewed from different angles. 

Tanzanite/Sapphire: The distinction

Tanzanite and sapphire look very similar to each other, and an untrained eye would find it extremely difficult to distinguish between these two beautiful blue gemstones. But this is where the similarity ends. Aside from the similar visual perception between the two sister gemstones, they differ considerably when considering other important parameters such as rarity and pricing. 

Both tanzanite and sapphire have cemented a rich history and legacy to their credit, and it's no wonder that they are among the most sought-after precious stones in the world. However, it's widely debated whether these two blue gemstones should be categorized as separate gems or if they should be included in the same subset of colour variation. While that remains unanswered, you should still be able to form a distinction between the two during your next jewellery purchase. 

We understand just how much of an invaluable investment a gemstone is to you. There's a wave of emotions behind each jewellery purchase, and we feel that you should choose nothing less than the best.

This write-up aims to highlight the main differences between tanzanite and sapphire and serves as a guide to help you pick the right blue gem according to your needs, preferences and budget. Rest assured that you will be able to choose a gem that you can be proud of! With that being said, let's show you the differences between sapphire and tanzanite. 

Understanding the differences between tanzanite/sapphire

  • Based on colour

  • Sapphire comes in a variety of colours, such as pink, white, green etc., but the blue sapphire is the most popular variant. A blue sapphire displays a traditional blue outlook with a deep undertone. In other words, blue sapphire takes on a purer shade of the colour blue

    Tanzanite typically offers a bluish-violet or bluish-purple hue. In addition, it displays different shades of blue when viewed from different angles. Essentially, tanzanites can appear in various shades of blue, ranging from a light sky blue to a deep dark blue and every shade of blue in between. 

  • Based on hardness

  • When it comes to hardness, sapphire is second only to diamond. With a whopping ranking of 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness, sapphire is exceptionally hard and strong. 

    On the other hand, Tanzanite ranks between 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, making it a softer gemstone in general. Therefore, tanzanite is not as durable or tough as sapphire. In fact, tanzanite also has the 'gemstone cleavage', meaning that it tends to break from a hard strike. 

  • Based on rarity

  • A sapphire is relatively abundant while being exceptionally rare per se. In general, gem-quality corundum is rare, but blue sapphire is the most common in this corundum. 

    Tanzanites are among the rarest of gemstones, being a thousand times rarer than diamonds. Tanzanite is exclusively found in Northern Tanzania, and the chances of finding it is speculated to be super rare. This limited availability and high demand have made tanzanite an extremely valuable gemstone. 

  • Based on clarity

  • Sapphire is prone to having flaws and inclusions, and they are considered a normal feature even in the highest quality of sapphires. 

    Tanzanite does have flaws and inclusions, but they are typically invisible to the naked eye. As such, tanzanites possess higher clarity than sapphires. 

  • Based on composition

  • Blue sapphire is categorized under the mineral corundum and has trace amounts of iron, magnesium, chromium, titanium, or vanadium present in its chemical composition. 

    Tanzanite is categorized under the mineral zoisite and has small amounts of vanadium, giving it the vintage bluish-violet or bluish-purple hue. 

  • Based on symbolism

  • Blue sapphire is regarded as the September birthstone and traditionally represents core values such as hope, integrity, sincerity, nobility, and faithfulness. In addition, the gemstone in itself is associated with royalty and marital bliss

    Tanzanite is deeply associated with wisdom, dignity, and truth. Many legends consider tanzanites to be crucial elements in channelling positive energy to an individual. 

  • Based on affordability

  • Blue sapphires have an illustrious history and legacy that is unmatched by many other gemstones. As such, blue sapphires are much more expensive than tanzanites. 

    Tanzanites are generally more expensive than other blue gems like aquamarine or blue topaz. However, they are considerably cheaper than blue sapphires. 

  • Based on popularity

  • Blue sapphire has been popularly associated with aristocracy and royalty for centuries and is among the most popular gemstones globally. 

    Tanzanite is not just a super rare blue gemstone; it is one of the world's rarest gemstones in general. In addition, its multitude of bluish hues and supreme clarity make it extremely attractive to the eye. So tanzanite is also a highly sought-after gemstone that has widespread popularity among people. 

  • Based on heat treatments

  • Almost all sapphires are heat-treated in order to enhance their natural colour. The darker colour saturation and better clarity of a heat-treated sapphire are preferred by most people looking to buy high-quality blue sapphires. It is worth noting that nearly 95% of blue sapphires undergo heat treatment. 

    Like blue sapphires, tanzanites are heat treated to enhance the magnificent blue and violet hues that this gemstone is famous for. In fact, the heating process helps eliminate the brown / burgundy axis and leaves behind the blue and violet axes in all their glory. Interestingly, tanzanites are heated to make them look closer to blue sapphires. 

  • Based on maintenance

  • Sapphires typically require high maintenance and care to keep the gem scratch-free and shimmering at its best. 

    Tanzanites are easier to maintain and do not require as much care as sapphires do. 

  • Based on cut

  • Assuming that both have been heat-treated, tanzanite/sapphire can be easily cut into any gemstone shape. 

    Are you getting engaged? Here's how you should choose the engagement ring!

    Tanzanite/sapphire are excellent choices for an engagement ring and are worn by people from all walks of life. But how will you choose between the two when you visit jewellers near you? 

    If you're on a budget, you should opt for tanzanite. It's a perfect alternative for blue sapphire, with its rarity, uniqueness, and appeal adding a charm of its own. The popularity of tanzanite has been escalating with time in the last few years and is expected to get more valuable with time. So don't think twice before going for a tanzanite engagement ring. 

    If you lead an active lifestyle where you tend to use your hands a lot, then blue sapphire is what you need. It is naturally durable, endures long-term exposure and is resistant to scratches and wear. Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that blue sapphire comes with higher prestige and richer history than tanzanite and, as such, can also be turned into a family legacy.

    Parting words

    Even a single gemstone is a monumental purchase of a lifetime for so many people. In addition to the rarity and worth of a blue gem, they also symbolize multiple values and the bliss of a happy marital life. 

    So it's easy to see why tanzanite/sapphire has cemented such an important place in the hearts and minds of people from all around the globe.  

    At Iris Gems, we take pride in offering the best gemstones through our penchant for our three principles: commitment, innovation and quality

    Through a delightful combination of expertise and experience, we bring you gems that occupy a pivotal place in your lives. We don't just deliver high-quality and premium gemstones; we build relationships with you that last for eons. 

    Are you looking for a beautiful tanzanite or blue sapphire jewellery piece that fits your needs? Get in touch with us today!