Every year at the Tucson gem and mineral shows, buyers from Shop LC scour the main events, always on the hunt for exciting new finds to bring to our national audience. Each new discovery is exciting, unusual, and unique. After all, this is a rare opportunity for many to collect and own unusual gem specimens from across the globe that they would never see otherwise. Truly Delivering Joy, it is our honor and delight to share with you cherry tanzurine. A rare, naturally occurring variety of cherry quartz, this stone has yet to be found anywhere else in the world! But, to know cherry tanzurine, you must also know Jonathan Bartky, the man responsible for bringing this delightful gem to market!
Who is Jonathan Bartky?
I first had the honor of meeting Mr. Bartky at the Pueblo Gem and Mineral Show in Tucson. One of the primary shopping spots for Shop LC buyers, it was at Pueblo we also discovered captivating Oregon peach opal just two years prior. Jonathan is the owner and proprietor of Ariel Treasures, the second company this seasoned industry veteran has founded to share his love of precious gems with the world.
When meeting Jonathan, you’re quickly greeted with a warm, friendly smile and gentle words of welcome. A giant of a man, I found Mr. Bartky to have an equally huge heart. Friendly eyes twinkle beneath a coif of tussled graying hair, while his infectious smile beams beneath a bushy white beard. A white blazer worn over smart, casual clothes creates that beautiful image of charming eccentricity so often seen at the gem shows. Jonathan is the real deal, the rare breed of Tucson regulars that make the gem and mineral events an experience that has to be seen to be believed and fully appreciated.
“I’ve been a rock hound since childhood,” Jonathan tells me, his tone pleasant and inviting. “I started picking samples from quarries as a teen, growing up in New Jersey.” I’m not surprised to hear this at all, considering so many of the collectors, dealers, buyers, sellers and all-around rock aficionados I’ve ever met were bitten by the bug in their early lives.
While in college, I’m told of how he discovered his passion for selling. “I was working in retail, selling electronics,” Mr. Bartky tells me. “It was good work, and I enjoyed selling, but I didn’t really enjoy the environment,” he says with a chuckle. “So, instead, I packed up, drove over to New York and started selling rocks and crystals from a street stall! This soon translated into me selling directly to stores, as crystals were really beginning to become popular with the New Age set in the 1980s.”
I listen, fascinated by Jonathan’s journey. When he takes a pause for me to respond, I follow up by asking him how he started his company.
“I noticed that a lot of these stones were coming from Brazil,” I am told. “Curious about this, I began researching the country and mining through my college library. That lead me to travel down to South America, where I began meeting and networking with miners and vendors.”
Mr. Bartky says with pride, “When I came back to the States, I was well-equipped to be selling mostly Brazilian material full time. With support from my parents, who believed in me and invested in my company, I was able to enjoy doing this well into the early 90s.”
Discovering Tanzurine in Tanzania
I continue listening to Jonathan’s stories, and he’s got a lot! It’s less like interviewing a business partner and more like catching up with an old friend. You just feel that type of personal connection when dealing with Jonathan. It might just be those Tucson vibes I’ve been riding off of since coming back to Austin. Or, could there be something special to all the exposure to gems?
After a few more fun side stories, Mr. Bartky comes around to telling me of his next journey in life. “I like to heal people,” he tells me as his voice quavers just a bit with emotion. “Which lead me to train as a registered nurse. I also became licensed as a massage therapist.” Knowing of Jonathan’s interest in gem therapy, I venture a guess, asking if he was looking for a way to join Eastern and Western traditions of healing? “That’s right,” he says, as I hear the smile in his voice. “My interest in holistic healing therapies had steadily grown during my time buying and selling gemstones. I knew I could do something more for people.”
With Jonathan pursuing his training as a nurse, it was decided his family would take over the business full-time. Eventually, that would lead him to another life-defining moment.
“I began working at a state-run hospital. Much, if not most, of the staff, I learned, came from Africa. It was a pleasure getting to know them, and learning about their rich cultures,” Mr. Bartky concludes. “These were lasting friendships I made there at the hospital. Many of them extended invitations for me to visit their home countries in Africa, too.”
“I was itching to get back into dealing rocks and gems again, so I hopped in my Jeep and drove down to Tucson. I wanted to see how the stone market was faring since I had been out for so long,” he continues, as we begin another yarn. Listening closely, I’m captivated by his zest for life and people and seizing the moment.
“What was it like coming back to it all?” I muse to him. Had things changed dramatically?
He doesn’t take long to answer, “The Brazilian stone market was booming! Many dealers were selling Brazilian material. While I admired how things were thriving, I knew pretty quickly that trying to get back into Brazilian stones wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
“Instead,” Mr. Bartky says, as if sharing a secret, “what I noticed is that many African sellers were selling, but not many buyers were buying. So, I decided to go around and introduce myself, make friends and get to know these dealers. That year, I built up a little network of contacts and traveled to Tanzania in 2016 to follow up with each of them.”
Ah, here we are, everyone! Jonathan explains to me how a friend passed him a sample of the stone that he would later dub ‘tanzurine.’
“While in Tanzania, a friend shared this curious specimen of quartz with me. I was intrigued by the gem, as I hadn’t seen anything like this before that was natural. After I was told the source, I decided to travel to the Maasai village where it was said to come from.”
Jonathan explains to me how merely reaching the village was a full day’s travel from the nearest urban area. Remote and desolate, the trip was not without its share of issues.
“Going out there was like being part of a safari,” he beams. “There is so much wildlife and natural beauty. It’s really breathtaking. The Maasai themselves are beautiful people. Friendly and gracious, the Maasai made him feel at home. Jonathan was able to create a partnership with local Tanzanians to begin mining operations. The Maasai own the land which we lease, my business partners handle the mining, I have the connections and industry knowledge; it’s an exciting partnership!”
Jonathan Bartky works directly with the Tanzanian Ministry of Minerals on behalf of his mining partners. Each cargo container must be inspected and approved, after which the ministry seals the container with a wax seal. From Africa to the United States, it can take up to eight months for tanzurine to arrive! However, most shipments can arrive to any port in around three or four months.
Tanzurine the Gemstone
A fascinating stone in and of itself, tanzurine is a gem that is special and unique. A type of quartz, it is very much like other cherry quartz. However, there are two significant differences. Can you guess?
Tanzurine is a true cherry quartz. However, before this discovery, “cherry quartz” gems entering the market were reconstituted or simulated gems. Some specimens are reported to be reconstituted from quartz and coloring agents. Others are simulants, such as glass, undergoing a color treatment. Until now, this particular stone was not known to occur naturally. To our knowledge, this is the only available supply.
Secondly, when the stone is cut perpendicular to its crystal axis, it displays terrific aventurescence. That is the glittery look some stones display. We often see this phenomenon in aventurine and goldstone.
After cutting and polishing, cherry tanzurine takes on a glistening bloody red color. Knowing the beliefs and rituals the Maasai hold sacred around blood-letting, it almost seems as if Providence led Mr. Bartky to this discovery.
Red gemstones are known for their ability to ignite passion, and we hope you’ll share the same passion Jonathan has for cherry tanzurine. What excites you most about this intriguing new gem? Look for cherry tanzurine from Shop LC in September 2019!