The gemstone Topaz is remarkable. It is both sought after as one of the cleanest, clearest and crispest colourless stones ever discovered, and is also host to a phenomenal array of colours. Many of these hues are natural, while others have been developed over many years as a treatment to the stone. There’s no denying it though; every single shade is delicious. Join us here as we explore more about the history of this enigmatic stone, the facts and legends that are woven throughout its story, and just some of the beautiful variations that are available from Gemporia.
THE HISTORY OF TOPAZ
It is not entirely clear how the gem came to be known as Topaz. What we do know is that the small island in the Red Sea which is today known as Zabargad (and as St. John’s Island in English), was once named ‘Topazios’. Pliny the Elder (23 - 79 AD), author of the book Natural History - which is often credited as being the first encyclopedia - linked the gem to the island. He also states that the island’s name was derived from the Greek word ‘topazos’, meaning ‘to seek’. The island is already widely known in gemstone circles as the place where Cleopatra mined her Peridot, but there’s no evidence to suggest that Topaz was mined there at this time. That said, throughout history, the two gemstones have been repeatedly confused with one another, as both can be found with vibrant golden greenish hues. As an aside, many historians believe that the Emeralds that Cleopatra was known to adore were probably Peridot stones from this island. So it seems the island of Topazios may have accidentally been associated with this stone before gemstone identification techniques became as reliable as they are today.
Another possible origin of the name comes in the form of the Sanskrit word ‘tapaz’, which means ‘fire’. This could be referring to either gemstone fire - the splitting of white light into a rainbow of colours within the gem - of the fact that Topaz is sometimes found in a beautiful deep golden colour. While there’s no way of knowing for sure how this diverse stone came to be named, we do know it has been around for a very long time. This explains why there is perhaps more folklore and legend surrounding Topaz than any other gem. It has been known as a powerful stone throughout the ages, one that was linked with attracting love and fortune. It is also mentioned in the Bible and is one of the twelve gemstones adorning the breastplate of Aaron.
Having first been discovered over 2,500 years ago, Topaz has a rich tapestry of legend running throughout its story. They were once thought to protect against enemies and were used as a symbol of splendour and love. It was even once suggested that wearing Blue Topaz along with Moonstone may have helped encourage the right mindset and willpower for weight loss. It is said that Topaz holds the distinction of being the gemstone with the most extensive range of curative properties associated with it over history. The Ancient Greeks once used Topaz as a talisman to give them strength, as well as supposedly relieving insomnia and restoring sanity. During the Middle Ages in Europe, it was once believed that Topaz could protect against spells and magic.
In the 1100s, a large Golden Topaz was said to have been donated to a monastery by Lady Hildegarde, wife of Theodoric, Count of Holland. The stone was so luminous that it was used at night to light the inside of the chapel. Its glow was so bright that the congregation were able to read their prayers without the use of lamps. In India, the gem has long been associated with beauty, intelligence and long life - mainly if worn over the heart. The Ancient Romans believed that the gem could help protect against poison and that it would change colour when danger was near to warn its wearer. The Egyptians believed the stone received its colour from the golden glow of the Sun God - Ra. This made Topaz a talisman of power that protected its owners from harm. Furthermore, they thought it had supernatural powers and could even make its owner invisible!
As we’ve already seen, Topaz has been mistaken for other gemstones in the past. This is perfectly understandable given the array of colours the stone is found in and its incredible clarity. One of the most astonishing Topaz gemstones of all time was at first thought to be a Diamond. In 1740, the ‘largest Diamond ever found’ was unearthed in Brazil, weighing a mighty 1,680 carats. Its size and splendour quickly saw it set into the Portuguese Crown Jewels (Brazil was a Portuguese colony until 1822). Not too long after, it was discovered to be very fine colourless Topaz stone, but undeterred from displaying this incredible treasure just because it wasn’t a Diamond, the Topaz - known as the ‘Brazanga Diamond’ - still sits in the Portuguese crown into which it was set.
The warm, golden variety of Topaz is known as Imperial Topaz. The name for this variety originated in 19th century Russia. At this time, the Ural Mountains in the centre of this vast country was the world’s most significant source of Topaz. When a deep pinky-golden variety was discovered high up in the mountains, it was named in honour of the Russian Czar of the day. The stone was so rare, every specimen found was automatically owned by the royal family, and were often set into jewellery pieces for the Czarina. The 21st century has seen a technological step forward in the world of Topaz. As well as the myriad natural colours in which the gemstone can be found, there are now several stable and permanent treatments for the gem that allow a whole new world of colour to be forever captured inside these gorgeous stones. It seems for Topaz that its future is just as bright as its history.
TOPAZ GEMSTONE INFORMATION
Along with Citrine, Topaz is the birthstone for November. It is also a suggested wedding gift for both the 4th and 23rd anniversary. More specifically, Blue Topaz is noted as the 4th anniversary gift and Imperial Topaz for the 23rd anniversary. That said, its gorgeous brilliance and crystal clarity make it a wonderful gift for all occasions. Talking of clarity, Topaz is considered a ‘Type 1’ gemstone, meaning it is almost always found with no inclusions. Inclusions aren’t necessarily a bad thing, and they can help add character to a gem. However, it’s hard to deny that the pure clarity of Topaz is one of its defining features. It also measures an 8 (out of 10) on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, so it is quite suitable for everyday wear. These factors, along with the sheer number of varieties available, combine to make Topaz a must-own stone.
Topaz is its own gemstone species and comes in a wide variety of colours. It can be found in yellow, brownish yellow, brown, green, blue, light blue, red, pink and colourless. The Portuguese call the colourless type ‘pingos d ‘água’ which means ‘drops of water’. How wonderful to imagine you can capture a drop of water in a piece of jewellery! Most colours of Topaz on the market today, except for colourless, light blue and yellow, derive their colour from either irradiation or heat treatment. For example, if you heat Yellow Topaz from the Ouro Preto region of Brazil, it is possible to turn it pinkish. The irradiation process used to turn colourless Topaz blue replicates the natural irradiation process found in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil, where Mother Nature naturally used irradiation to turn Topaz blue - indeed natural Blue Topaz has been found in Russia. So the process has been inspired by nature and harnessed by scientists to provide many of the colours we now see in Topaz.
Topaz is its own gemstone species and comes in a wide variety of colours. It can be found in yellow, brownish yellow, brown, green, blue, light blue, red, pink and colourless.
If you ever see the lesser-used term ‘Precious Topaz’, it is most likely referring to stones of a golden yellow to peachy orange colour. Before the 1950s, these hues accounted for virtually all Topaz stones which had been discovered thus far. Throughout history, this gem was available in multiple shades of oranges, yellows and golden browns, hence prior to the last century it was often mistaken for certain gems of similar hues, such as Citrine and Smoky Quartz. The confusion was heightened by the Brazilian word ‘Topazio’, which means yellow gem. It seems Topaz has caused quite a lot of trouble over the years!
Topaz is found in several mining locations around the world, with the most important areas being Minas Gerais, Brazil, the Ural Mountains of Russia, Madagascar and Nigeria. Samples of the gem also have been discovered at various locations in the UK, including St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, the isle of Lundy near Devon, in Northern Ireland, and in the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland. Sadly, it’s almost impossible to get hold of any British-mined Topaz as the sites are not commercially mined. But it is interesting to think that the right mix of elements and conditions were once present in the UK to form this beautifully clear stone.
Topaz is a fantastic gem to use in jewellery, not only for its stunning colours but also because of its durability. Due to the hardness as mentioned above, only Diamond, Sapphire and Ruby are harder than Topaz. It is a pleochroic gemstone, which means that different colours can be seen from different angles as you move the gem in the light. For example, a Red Topaz may show dark reds, yellows and pinkish reds at various aspects.
Although Topaz is very hard, it does have perfect cleavage, which - although reliable once faceted and set into jewellery - often creates challenges for lapidarists when cutting the gem. The cleavage of a gemstone is a plane running through the stone in the same way a grain runs through a piece of wood. If you catch the cleavage plane of gemstone in the wrong way, it can split the stone, so the lapidarist (gem cutter) needs to be very careful and extremely skilled to cut the gem in just the right way. Topaz is also piezoelectric, which means it accumulates a very small electrical charge when it is subjected to any kind of mechanical stress.
TOPAZ CRYSTAL HEALING
Gemstones are as old as time and in the years since their first discovery they've picked up a lot more than adoring collectors and fascinated mineralogists. Many have gained stories regarding their legend, lore and healing properties, and whilst there's no evidence to suggest that any of these properties are real, it's still interesting to explore the esoteric side of Mother Nature's miracles. It's worth asking ourselves, "If you truly believe in something, does that mean it's true"? Scientifically, the answer is no, but what about on a more personal, spiritual level? If you really truly believe that an item in your house is having an effect on you, are you more likely to feel that effect? It's really not for us to say, but it's a very interesting concept that deserves further research. Once again though, we must point out though that no studies have ever found any therapeutic effects or properties in gemstones, and the following is for your information only.
Topaz has long been associated with soothing, healing and remotivating and has been called the gemstone of good fortune and love. It is thought to give one the energy to promote truthfulness and forgiveness. Wearing Topaz has been said to help stabilise one's emotions and calm one's nerves. Blue Topaz particularly has been said to unite mind, body and spirit, while crystal healers have linked Yellow/Golden Topaz with bringing about a sense of optimism and strengthening one's character. Healers believe that Imperial Topaz stimulates the appetite and helps in relaxation.
GEMOLOGICAL PROPERTIES OF TOPAZ
- Colour Colourless, yellow, yellow-orange, blue, violet, green, pink, pink-red
- Family Topaz
- Mohs Scale Hardness 8
- Specific Gravity 3.5 - 3.6
- Refractive Index 1.60 - 1.63
- Lustre Vitreous
- Crystal System Orthorhombic
- Transparency Transparent to translucent
- Chemical Formula Al2SiO4(F,OH)2
- Composition Aluminum Fluoro-Hydroxyl-Silicate
WHERE IS TOPAZ MINED?
Where does Topaz come from? As you can see from the map above, the biggest Topaz mines are spread far and wide across the world. Here at Gemporia, we get most of our Topaz from Brazil and Nigeria, as well as some of the other places occasionally. Brazil is a treasure trove of gemstones, and this remarkable country gives us excellent quality Emerald, Rubellite, Aquamarine, and so many other stones. The Topaz we get from here is so clean and clear and creates the perfect canvas on which to paint a multitude of hues using modern colouring techniques. Brazil even gives us one of the very few naturally coloured Topaz gemstones, the incomparable golden hues of Imperial Topaz. Nigeria also provides the most incredibly bright, clear Topaz stones, and is also the source of the giant Cullinan Topaz sample we have in the Gemporia museum. This remarkably large piece of Topaz weighs in at a phenomenal 77,000 carats!
VARIETIES OF TOPAZ
Sky Blue Topaz is the lightest variety of Blue Topaz (typically around 20% to 30% tone), and when they feature great clarity (which they almost always do), they can often look similar to the finest quality Aquamarine gems. The lighter tone works hand in hand with the sparkle of the gemstone to make this variety really twinkle and shine. They're almost unbeatable for their beauty when worn as a pair of stud earrings in a good carat weight. The name comes from the unmistakable colour of the sky on a crisp, clear spring day.
Sky Blue Topaz
This is the name given to any Blue Topaz jewels that are lighter in tone than London Blue Topaz but darker in tone than Sky Blue Topaz. This 'best of both worlds' balance between the two is very popular and is thought to have been named after the colour of the sky above the Swiss Alps on a perfect spring day. Swiss Blue Topaz looks stunning in any precious metal setting, but we think it looks perfect when set into sterling silver, as the neutral colour of the metal lets the bright, vibrant blue of the stone take centre stage and truly shine.
Swiss Blue Topaz
Without question, Imperial Topaz is one of the world’s most coveted gemstones. Due to pleochroism, its mesmerising natural colours effortlessly flow from a vibrant yellow to orange and just occasionally from orange to pink. Imperial Topaz is one of those gemstones that all gem collectors and connoisseurs seek to one day acquire. In the 18th century, this gem was hugely popular in Imperial Russia, and it is through this association that the gem most likely received its name. That said, if you speak to any mine owner in Brazil, they will tell you that the gem was named in honour of their emperor Dom Pedro, who claimed Brazil’s independence from Portugal in 1822. Because of the richness of its folklore and its natural colours, Imperial Topaz is sold at a premium price.
For a long time, the extra colour was added to Topaz by coating the outside of the gemstones. While the results were undeniably beautiful, this coating could, over time, start to scratch off, revealing the clear Topaz underneath. These days, there’s a much better way of adding in an array of beautiful colours to Topaz. It is done by diffusing the colour throughout the entire gemstone using a patented technique developed over many years. The process is entirely stable and will last a lifetime, so you’ll be able to enjoy these exquisite colours forever. Here, we’re highlighting Galileia Topaz; a stunning, soft pink variety created using this technique. But there are many other colours available too.
HOW TO CLEAN TOPAZ
Topaz is such a beautifully clear gem that to keep it looking its absolute best will require an occasional bit of cleaning. The easiest way to do this is to use the tried and tested 'warm soapy water' method. Add a touch of soft detergent (such as washing up liquid) to a bowl of warm (but not hot) water and then use a soft cloth with a little of the soapy water on it to buff away at the gemstone, removing any accumulated dirt. Don't forget to clean the underside of the stone too, as any dirt on the bottom of the gem will significantly change the way light passes through the stone, and it may look dull. Use a soft cotton wool bud if it's difficult to access the bottom of your stone. You can also use a very soft cleaning brush if you need a little more help getting to all of the dirt. We recommend you completely avoid steam cleaning and ultrasonic cleaning with Topaz.
Jewellery Cleaning Methods
HOW TO CARE FOR TOPAZ
Topaz is a tough gemstone, measuring 8 on the Mohs scale of gemstone hardness. This means very few other gemstones will scratch Topaz, but some of the ones that will include Diamond, Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald. This means that Topaz will scratch almost all other gemstones. Therefore we recommend you keep all your Topaz pieces in a jewellery box or soft pouch where other gemstones can't knock into your Topaz pieces. As with all gems, keep your Topaz stones away from bright light and heat when you're not wearing them, and take your jewellery off when doing any heavy-duty work or using cleaning chemicals, etc.
WHERE TO BUY TOPAZ
There are so many beautiful Topaz colours already available, with almost limitless potential for new colours, that Topaz has become a real fashion stone - your gem for any occasion. Whether you're looking for traditional Imperial Topaz in rings or earrings, or want a stunning, bright Topaz bracelet featuring a more modern hue, we've got the Topaz piece for you. Use the buttons below to get started - you're just a few clicks away from your perfect Topaz piece.
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