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Titanic gem makes birth mark
- December stone tag to wipe al Qaida taint off Jaipur’s tanzanite

Jaipur, Nov. 23: Remember the only thing Rose was wearing while her lover sketched her curves in that famous scene in Titanic' The beautiful blue gemstone that she clung on to till her heart went on and on'

Well, that stone — jewellers call it tanzanite — now has a fresh claim to fame. It has been put on the official birthstone list of the Jewellers of America and joins turquoise and zircon as a December stone.

The stone had lost its lustre after the US media ran a story in the wake of 9/11 alleging that al Qaida was using tanzanite sales to feed its terrorist activities. Promptly, three leading US jewel retailers had suspended sales in the stone, 99 per cent of which is manufactured in Jaipur.

Now — although US President George W. Bush hasn’t lived up to his make-no-mistake-we-will-smoke-’em-out pledge — the US has officially given tanzanite the clean chit, saying no evidence has been found linking it to either Osama bin Laden or terror. So, to restore its sheen and rid it of stigma, tanzanite has been upgraded into a birthstone.

The promotion comes as a shot in the arm for tanzanite traders in Jaipur, who handle 60-70 per cent of the cutting and polishing work in the world. The industry had been sliding into recession since the September strikes on the US.

The American Gem Trade Association amended the birthstone list on October 30 to make a slot for tanzanite, which comes in a range of colours from lilac to royal blue to burgundy wine. The list was last revised 90 years ago in 1912.

The news was conveyed to the coloured gemstone industry in Jaipur, the leading tanzanite processing centre in the world, only three days ago.

Alok Kala, editor of Journal of Gem Industry, hoped the upgradation would reverse the trade slump.

Soon after the tanzanite-and-terror story broke last November in the US, jewel retailers QVS Inc, Zale Corp and Tiffany & Co were forced to suspend sales after a large number of lawsuits were filed. The story named S.T.S. Jewels Corp of New York, owned by Jaipur jeweller Sunil Agrawal, as an “industry source”.

Agrawal also owns Jaipur’s M/S Vaibhav Gems, which has very close links with tanzanite mines in Tanzania, the monopoly producers of the stone. It was first discovered near Mount Kilimanjaro in 1967 and could cost anything between Rs 500-Rs 50,000 a carat depending on its colour.

The US clean chit was given some time ago when Michael O’Keefe, representing the US State Department’s Bureau of East African Affairs, said no evidence had been found suggesting al Qaida or any other terrorist group was using tanzanite sales to launder money. Keefe said there was no proof tanzanite played any part in the attacks on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.

Soon after, a protocol was announced at the instance of the American Gem Trade Association to free tanzanite from the terrorist stigma. This had the endorsement of the US State Department. Parties to the document include the Jewellers Association of Jaipur, the Indian Diamond & Colour Stone Association, International Coloured Gemstones Association and Tanzanian Chamber of Mines.

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