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Learning Library

Topaz Gemstone

Along with Citrine, Topaz is the birthstone for November. It is also a suggested wedding gift  for both the 4th and 23rd anniversary. That said,  its gorgeous brilliance and crystal clarity makes it a wonderful gift for all occasions.

It is unclear how the gem was first named. What we do know is that the small island in the Red  Sea  which  is  today  known  as  Zabargad,  was  once named “Topazios”. Pliny the Elder, author of the Natural History in the first century AD, links the gem to the island and states that the  island’s name was derived from the Greek word  “topazos”, “to seek”.  Although the island was the  source of Peridot for Cleopatra, Topaz was not  mined there at that time. That said, throughout  history the two gemstones have been repeatedly  confused with one another, both of which can be  found with vibrant golden greenish hues. Others  believe that the gem’s name originates from the Sanskrit word “tapaz”, which means fire.

There  is  possibly  more  folklore  and  legend  surrounding Topaz than any other gem. It has  been  known  as  a  powerful  magnetic  stone  throughout the ages that attracts love and fortune.  It has been mentioned in the Bible and is one of  the gemstones adorning the twelve holy gates of  Jerusalem. 

Having been discovered over 2500 years ago,  Topaz gems are also called apocalyptic stones.  They are known to protect against enemies and  are used as a symbol of splendour and love. It is even suggested that if you wear Blue Topaz along with Moonstone it may help encourage the  right mindset and willpower for weight loss.

It  is  said  that  Topaz  holds  the  distinction  of  being  the  gemstone  with  the  widest  range  of  curative properties. The Greeks felt that it gave  them strength, as well as supposedly relieving  insomnia, and restoring sanity; it was even said  to be able to detect poisons. Furthermore, they  thought  it  had  supernatural  powers  and  could  even make its owner invisible!

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. 

In the 1100’s a large Golden Topaz was said to  have  been  donated  to  a  monastery  by  Lady Hildegarde  (wife  of  Theodoric,  Count  of  Holland),  which  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  Europe  during  the  Renaissance  (1300 – 1600) Topaz was believed to break evil  spells and dispel anger. In India it was worn as a  pendant, just above the heart to ensure long life,  beauty and intelligence.

Topaz is its own 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’agoa” 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,  with  the  exception  of  colourless,  light  blue and yellow, derive their colour from either  irradiation or heat treatment (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  Gerias  in  Brazil,  where  Mother Nature naturally used irradiation to turn  Topaz blue (natural Blue Topaz has also been  found  in  Russia).  Today  Topaz  is  sometimes  coated,  resulting  in  glorious  multi-coloured  Mystic Topaz. 

When we refer to the term “Precious Topaz”, we  are talking about stones of a golden yellow to a  peachy orange colour. Prior to the 1950’s, these  hues accounted for virtually all Topaz 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 shades, such as Citrine and Smokey    Quartz. The confusion was heightened by  the  Brazilian word “Topazio”, which means yellow  gem. 

Topaz is a fantastic gem to use in jewellery, not  only for its stunning colours but also because of  its durability. Reaching 8 on the Mohs hardness  scale  only  Diamonds,  Sapphire  and  Ruby  are  harder.  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. Although Topaz  is  very  strong,  it  does  have  perfect  cleavage,  which - although reliable once faceted and set  into  jewellery  -  often  creates  challenges  for  Lapidarists when cutting the gem.

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 have also been discovered at various  locations  in  the  UK:  St  Michael’s  Mount  in  Cornwall;  the  isle  of  Lundy  near  Devon; Northern Ireland; and Cairngorm Mountains  in Scotland.

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A White Topaz ring from the Jessica Lili collection