Topaz Gemstone Information
About Topaz - History and Introduction
Topaz is an aluminium silicate that contains fluorine and hydroxyl. In its pure form it is colourless (white). Impurities are what cause variations in colour. Topaz has a history that goes back at least two thousand years. The use of topaz goes back to Egyptian times when the ancient Egyptians believed that yellow topaz received its golden hue from the Sun God, Ra. Some believe that "topaz" is a Middle English word, which was acquired from the Old French word "Topace" and Latin "Topazus", the root of which is in the Greek word "Topazios" or "Topazion"; the ancient name of an island in The Red Sea where the ancient Greeks mined a yellow gem that they believed to be topaz. The name of the island means "to seek" in Greek. It could have been so named because it was difficult to find amongst the mist. This island is now known as "Zabargad" or "St John's Island", and it is thought that the gem mined by the ancient Greeks was actually "chrysolite". The Christian Old Testament makes references to topaz, but this gemstone may have also been "chrysolite", rather than topaz. The word "topaz" could also have stemmed from the Sanskrit (the ancient language of India) word, "tapas", which means "fire".
Identifying Topaz Back to Top
Topaz can be distinguished from diamond, ruby, sapphire, citrine, apatite, brazilianite, zircon, fluorite, kunzite, tourmaline and orthoclase by its hardness (8 on the Mohs scale). It can be told apart from aquamarine by its orthorhombic crystal structure. Phenakite can be distinguished from topaz by its trigonal crystal structure. Spinel can be identified from topaz by its cubic crystal structure. Topaz has a lower density and different chemical composition than chrysoberyl, and chrysoberyl usually has no fluorescence, whereas topaz has some weak fluorescence, which can help to distinguish between the two. Precious beryl can be mistaken for topaz, but has indistinct cleavage, whereas topaz displays perfect cleavage. A lot of other less valuable gems are misleadingly sold as "topaz", such as Madeira topaz, occidental topaz, Palmeira topaz, Rio topaz, saffranite topaz, Scottish topaz, smoky topaz and Spanish topaz. However, in most cases, these gems are citrine quartz, with the exception of smoky topaz, which is smoky quartz. Indian topaz, king topaz and star topaz are all actually sapphire. Diamond has a Mohs scale hardness score of 10, so it differs from white topaz in this respect. Topaz is softer than ruby and sapphire, which both have a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale. Topaz also exhibits pleochroism, which is the appearance of several colors in a single stone depending on the viewing angle. Most other similar gemstones do not typically exhibit pleochroism.
Topaz; Origin and Gemstone Sources Back to Top
Deposits of topaz have been found in Brazil, Afghanistan, Australia, Myanmar (Burma), China, Germany, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and the USA. Natural light-blue topaz is found in Northern Ireland and the UK. Enormous topaz crystals have been discovered in Minas Gerais (Brazil) and Ukraine.
Buying Topaz and Determining Topaz Gemstone Value Back to Top
Topaz Gemmological Properties: Back to Top
Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemmology-related terms.
Topaz: Related or Similar Gemstones Back to Top
Topaz can appear similar to a variety of other gemstones depending on the colour. In fact, the ancient Greeks are thought to have mistaken chrysolite for topaz. Orange-brown and imperial topaz is similar to citrine, zircon, chrysoberyl, golden beryl and sapphire. Pink topaz appears to be similar to morganite, tourmaline, kunzite, rose quartz and spinel. Yellow topaz can be compared with chrysoberyl, heliodor, zircon and yellow sapphire. Blue topaz is similar to aquamarine, zircon, spinel and euclase. White topaz shares some characteristics with diamond, zircon, rock crystal and goshenite. Topaz is chemically related to sillimanite, andalusite, kanonaite, kyanite and mullite.
Topaz Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers Back to Top
The ancient Greeks believed that topaz was a powerful stone that could increase the strength of the wearer and even provide invisibility in desperate times. Both the ancient Egyptians and the Romans associated topaz with the Sun God. Imperial topaz is the birthstone for those born in November and for those born under the zodiacal sign of Sagittarius. It is also the gemstone that commemorates the 23rd wedding anniversary. Blue topaz is the birthstone for December and is used to commemorate the 4th wedding anniversary. In traditional Indian belief systems, topaz is said to unlock the throat chakra, which facilitates communication and self-expression. Therefore, topaz is thought to be beneficial to artists, writers, public speakers and others who are concerned with self-expression. Some believe that topaz can promote virility in men.
Topaz Gemstone and Jewellery Design Ideas Back to Top
Topaz can be made into an almost limitless variety of jewellery due to its versatility. It is ideal for rings, necklaces, bracelets and pendants and can be fashioned into almost any shape. As with diamond, topaz should be protected from hard knocks by protected settings in rings for daily wear. This is because a single blow could cause fracturing due to perfect cleavage. Topaz is very hard (8 on the Mohs scale), which gives it durability and resistance to scratches.
Note: Buy coloured gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Coloured stones vary in size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamonds by weight in comparison.
Famous Topaz Gemstones Back to Top
The "El-Dorado Topaz" is the largest faceted gemstone in the world and weighs an enormous 31,000 carats (6.2 kg). It is an emerald-cut yellow topaz gemstone that was found in Minas Gerais, Brazil and then weighed 37 kg, uncut. The American Golden Topaz, which is the biggest cut yellow topaz gem, weighs an astounding 22,892.5 carats (4.6 kg). It is on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. It is one of the largest faceted gems in the world, came from Minas Gerais in Brazil and two years were taken to cut its 172 facets. There are unbelievably enormous uncut yellow topaz crystals reaching a mass of 31 kg (the Lindsay Uncut Topaz) and 50 kg (the Freeman Uncut Topaz). These uncut gems are on display as part of the Smithsonian Museum's collection. The Chalmers Topaz is another huge cut topaz, and weighs 5,899.5 carats (1.17990 kg). It is white with a blue cast and is a brilliant-cut oval-shaped gem. It is displayed at the Field Museum of Natural History, USA. In 1964, some blocks of blue topaz, each weighing an amazing 100 kg were found in the Ukraine. Another famous topaz gemstone is the 1640 carat Braganza "Diamond", which is part of the Portuguese crown jewel collection. It was originally believed to be a diamond, probably because it was found in Minas Gerais, near where diamonds had been discovered, but was later found to be a white topaz crystal.
Topaz Gemstone Jewellery Care and Cleaning Back to Top
Like diamond, topaz has perfect cleavage, which means that the force of a single blow could cause it to split. Therefore, protected bezel settings are recommended, rather than pronged settings, for rings that are worn daily. Topaz's hardness (8 on the Mohs scale) makes it durable and means that it does not scratch easily. To clean your topaz, simply use soapy water and a soft cloth. Be sure to rinse well to remove soapy residue. As with most gemstones, ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended. Always remove any jewellery or gemstones before exercising, cleaning or engaging in harsh physical activities such as sports. Store topaz away from other gemstones to avoid scratches. It is best to wrap gemstones in soft cloth or place them inside a fabric-lined jewellery box.
- First Published: February-08-2007
- Last Updated: January-22-2015
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