Topaz is a popular mineral, occurring in large and beautifully shaped and colored crystals. Many larger splendors have been cut and polished and reside in museums around the world. Topaz naturally occurs in many colors, but rarely in pink or dark blue. It is the birthstone for both November and December and is the official gemstone of several states in the United States.
Hardness: Topaz is given a rating of eight on the Mohs scale of hardness.
Color: Topaz is a versatile stone and comes in a variety of colors. While pure topaz is colorless and transparent, most often it is tinted by impurities. Commonly topaz is wine, yellow, pale gray, reddish-orange, or blue brown. Less common are topaz gemstones that are white, pale green, gold, reddish-yellow and opaque. The rarest topaz colors are pink, purple, and deep blue.
Birthstone: Orange topaz, also known as precious topaz, is the traditional birthstone for those born in November. Blue topaz is the birthstone for those born in December. Topaz is also the Zodiac birthstone for those born under the sign of Sagittarius.
Scarcity: Most colors of faceted topaz gemstones are commonly used in jewelry, making it one of the popular gemstones. While some colors of topaz are quite common, there are several colors that are rarely occur naturally. These are pink Imperial topaz and blue topaz. Yellow topaz is the most prevalent.
Value: Because topaz comes in several colors and shades, determining the value of this gemstone is much more complicated than evaluating more straight-forward gems like the diamond. The most valuable topaz variety is the pink topaz, which is also referred to as Imperial topaz, named after the Russian Tsars of the 1800’s.
Most Common Cuts: It is easy to tell a well cut topaz from a poorly cut one. Topaz comes in all shapes and sizes. It is not uncommon to find some colors of topaz in larger carat weights. Some of the biggest stones have ranged from 31,000 carats (6.2kg) for the yellowish-brown “El-Dorado” (discovered in Brazil in 1984) down to 1,469 carats for an unnamed yellow-green topaz.
Topaz is rarely cut into cabochons. Due to the elongated form of the rough crystals of this gem, long faceted oval or pear shape cuts are most common to bring out the vibrant color of the stone. Emerald cuts, the square cut, octagon shape or the round cut are also common.
Chemical Formula: Topaz has the chemical formula of Al2SiO4(F,OH)2.
Synthetic Varieties: Pink, purple, and deep blue varieties are rare and are therefore most likely to appear in synthetic or heat treated varieties. Specifically, yellow topaz when heated may turn pink. The blue topaz, which became wildly popular in the 1980’s is a naturally colorless topaz that has undergone heat treatments.
Any buyer needs to be aware of gemstones sold under the name “Smoky Topaz” because they may be fooled into believing that this quartz is actually a topaz. Smoky quartz should always be labeled as such and should never be represented as topaz. Other imposters include Bahia topaz, Spanish topaz and Citrine Star Topaz (which are all actually citrine quartz).
History: Topaz has an extremely long history, and has been known for at least 2000 years. It is one of the gemstones that form the foundation of the twelve gates to the Holy City of the New Jerusalem. At that time, topaz gemstones were intended to help protect against enemies and were seen as a symbol of beauty and splendor.
Topaz became a popular and coveted gemstone in Europe in the 18th Century. At that time, yellow topaz was mined in Germany during a period of over 60 years. The stones found here were relatively small and to find bigger stones you had to traverse the Atlantic to Brazil. There, some clear topaz crystal pegmatites reached the size of a boulder and weighed hundreds of pounds. When topaz was discovered in the Ural Mountains of Southern Russia, any product of those mines was restricted to ownership by members of the royal family. Many believe it was that connected that gave it the name “Imperial Topaz” to the pink variety of topaz.
Today, blue topaz is most often found in the Ural Mountains of Russia. Multi-colored yellow and blue Topaz comes from Nerchinsk, Transbaikalia, Russia, and transparent and often etched crystals from the Ukraine. Other topaz stones have been found around the world in numerous locations.
Rumored Healing Properties: In mysticism, the topaz has said to dissipate sadness, anger and protect one from sudden death. It is reputed to make men handsome and intelligent, and sterile women fertile and happy. Topaz has said to be able to ward off the common cold, improve breathing and protect one from contracting tuberculosis.