Face to face with discoverer of Tanzanite By this reporter, Kilimanjaro Imagine a gemstone so nice that it radiates a hundred rays of velvet blue and sensual violet from every facet. A gemstone so precious, it is found only in one place on earth. So extraordinarily rare, that in a single generation, there will be no more. Tanzanite stones are used in all forms of jewelery and in some cases it has been chosen to replace diamond earrings, rings and necklaces. But who had actually discovered this precious stone is not a subject of human speculation. My first encounter with the man who first spotted these gemstones, unfortunately rekindles sad memories of biting poverty among majority Tanzanians, whose country is endowed with massive natural wealth. Using my own car; it took me almost six hours to reach Makanya Township in Kilimanjaro region, over 600 km from Dar, where Jumanne Mhero Ngoma- the man who first spotted Tanzanite lives. Contrary to my imaginations, Mr. Ngoma lives an average village life with his family. He has nothing to boast off. Even his neighbours are wondering why this man remains poor despite his discovery of a multi million dollars business. Ever since Mr. Ngoma stumbled upon sparkling blue crystals in the shadows of Mount Kilimanjaro; tanzanite has become one of the worlds most sought-after gemstones. No wonder. As anyone who has ever laid eyes on this gemstone can testify, and yet, when it was first discovered, Ngoma could hardly give it away: -I found the tanzanite in Merelani, Arusha, in the area called Kiteto at the beginning of January 1967. I was on my way to visit some of my relatives who live in Kiteto, when walking through the bush I saw some crystals of a blue mineral lying on the ground. There were very nice They were blue, some were transparent In a few hours I collected about 5kg they were all very lovely blue crystals. -A friend told me to get on the bus and go to Nairobi, Kenya where there was a much bigger gemstone market than in Arusha. So I borrowed some money for the journey and went to an overseas company who deals in precious stones and I let them see the 5kg of tanzanite. They didnt even know what the mineral was. They told me, though, that as soon as they knew, they would let me know. I left them with the 5kg of tanzanite in exchange for a return ticket home, worth $5, four decades have passed and Im still waiting for their answer! But I kept some samples for myself, he recounts. Following this discovery, tanzanite quickly became one of the worlds most popular gemstones. Some credit is due to some promoters, who introduced it to market with a lovely name that pays tribute to the beauty of the land of its birth. The name tanzanite was adopted by the then President of Tanzania Julius Nyerere who recommended that the precious stone be given a national status. Tanzania government, through the ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources recognized Mr. Ngoma and awarded him some money in 1979, thus no other person should be linked with the rare discovery. The commission for science and technology had also honored him in 1984 and awarded him a certificate of citation, a shield and a token 50,000 shillings. Despite its discovery; Tanzanite has not been without controversy. For years now Mr. Ngoma has been involved in a fierce legal battle against AFGEM-the biggest Tanzanite mining company from South Africa for allegedly promoting another person as the discoverer of the stone. Mr. Ngoma is confident that, whoever refutes that he was the one who first spotted tanzanite is dreaming since the government had already recognized him with tangible proof. Its a pity that some individuals and foreign companies involved in tanzanite business continue to embarrass him by denying his discovery. On its discovery, it was enthusiastically celebrated by the specialists as the gemstone of the 20th century'. They held their breath in excitement as they caught sight of the first deep-blue crystals which had been found in Merelani hills. The precious crystals grew in deposits on the inside of unusual elevations. It is interesting that for a long time they were hidden from the eye of man, until one day a passing pastoralist Mr. Ngoma noticed some sparkling crystals abundantly lying on the ground.