The gemstone Topaz is remarkable. It is both sought after as one of the cleanest, clearest and crispest colorless stones ever discovered, and is also host to a phenomenal array of colors. 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 Bijaar.
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 colors within the gem – of the fact that Topaz is sometimes found in a beautiful deep golden color. 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 splendor 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 was 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 color when danger was near to warn its wearer. The Egyptians believed the stone received its color 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 colors 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 splendor 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 colorless 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 center 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 honor 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 jewelry pieces for the Czarina. The 21st century has seen a technological step forward in the world of Topaz. As well as the myriad natural colors 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 color 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 colors. It can be found in yellow, brownish yellow, brown, green, blue, light blue, red, pink and colorless. The Portuguese call the colorless type ‘pingos d ‘água’ which means ‘drops of water’. How wonderful to imagine you can capture a drop of water in a piece of jewelry! Most colors of Topaz on the market today, except for colorless, light blue and yellow, derive their color 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 colorless 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 colors we now see in Topaz.
If you ever see the lesser-used term ‘Precious Topaz’, it is most likely referring to stones of a golden yellow to peachy orange color. 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 jewelry, not only for its stunning colors 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 colors 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 jewelry – often creates challenges for lapidarist’s 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 stabilize 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.
WHERE IS TOPAZ MINED?
VARIETIES OF TOPAZ
- Galileia Topaz
- Imperial Topaz
- Swiss Blue Topaz
- Sky Blue Topaz
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.
WHERE TO BUY TOPAZ
There are so many beautiful Topaz colors already available, with almost limitless potential for new colors, 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. Just contact us at [email protected] and we will be happy to help you. 🙂