Precious by name, precious by nature. Precious topaz comes in a variety of colours depending on the other minerals it has interacted with, from the traditional orange, to golden browns, across to pinks and reds. The topaz can also vary in its opacity, and it is only rare precious topaz gems that have the famous translucency that make them so valuable. It really does have it all.
Blue Topaz - November Birthstone
The Meaning and History of Topaz
Topaz’s history is a little more difficult to define, as the gem we now know as topaz wasn’t properly identified until quite recently. The name topaz used to apply to a wider variety of stones that appeared to all fit under the same umbrella, varying in opacity but all carrying the same colour theme of orange-y, brown-y, and golden-y themes.
In fact, the first topaz weren’t even topaz. The name is said to come from the Ancient Greek name for the island we know now as Zabargad, just off the coast of Egypt in the Red Sea. The island, then known as Topazios was the first place where mysterious topaz-esque gems were discovered, but there were in fact various olivine gemstones. In all fairness to the Ancient Greeks, it’s an easy enough mistake to make. Over time and into the Middle Ages, the name of topaz came to encompass any gem that fit the general image. It even came to be more closely associated with peridot, as the use of topaz in some translations of the King James Bible refers to a peridot-esque gem rather than an actual topaz.
The first actual gemstones to make it to Europe were exported from Ancient Sri Lanka to Europe by merchants across the Indian Ocean. These became used as an ornamental stone by the Ancient Egyptians as far back as 1530 BC and the empires who rose and fell after them continued that tradition. After Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, the gems and their status were taken by the Greeks, and from there into the rest of Europe.
Possibly the most famous topaz gem of all time is the one that was given as a gift to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. The Emperor, who is one of very few people to rule over all of the Indian subcontinent, was just unbelievably rich. Under his rule in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Mughal Empire produced more than the whole of Western Europe. Fittingly, his gem is estimated to have weighed in at over 150 carats.
Where does Topaz come from?
Topaz can be found in a wide variety of locations, but its rarity makes sure that deposits of it are hard to come by. Even though they can be found across all 6 continents, some of the largest producers of precious topaz are Brazil, the United States, and Zimbabwe. Some areas even have their own specific varieties, like Zimbabwe with a particularly vivid blue variety of topaz, and Texas with their own very pale, almost colourless, sky-blue topaz.
Sky Blue Topaz Sterling Silver Earrings - November Birthstone Earrings
The Properties of Topaz
Topaz is one of the hardest gems around (8 on the Mohs scale), which has made it a favourite of jewellers for centuries now. The source of the colours is actually little impurities within the gem and the makeup of the impurity decides the overall colour of the gem. For example, a chromium impurity will mean a pink or red gem. More recently, there are ways of changing the colours, irradiating or heat treating the gems to get the nicest colours out of them. However, this isn't a permanent process and over time they will go back to their original colour. Topaz is also one of the least refractive gems, so don't expect any dazzling cut gems. Their beauty lies in their vivid colours and translucency, not their reflective properties.
Sky Blue Topaz Sterling Silver Ring - November Birthstone Ring
Topaz - The November Birthstone
Topaz is the original modern birthstone for the month of November. It's role as a birthstone is one of the contributing to factors to its huge popularity. While topaz is available in a variety of colours, blue topaz is often the most sought after colour for this month. The eye-catching colour of this stone offers a unique, personal gift for the special people in your life. Blue topaz is also the traditional gemstone to celebrate a 4th wedding anniversary.
Mystical Powers of Topaz
The powers of topaz in tradition vary from nation to nation, but they are overall overwhelmingly positive. The Ancient Romans believed that wearing a topaz would ward off danger while travelling, while Ancient Hindu tradition included it in astrology as the gem assigned to Jupiter. During the Middle Ages in Europe it began to become more associated with ideas of wealth, majesty, and power. Possibly due to most European topaz being yellow or gold in colour, it was said to attract wealth to its wearer.
In the Christian tradition, St. Hildegard of the 10th century promoted the health benefits of topaz, specifically for vision. Her instructions were to soak a topaz gem in wine for three days and three nights, then to rub the gem on the eyes that needed healing. This link to sight also led to the belief that the gem could give its wearer invisibility, or failing that just helps to stay hidden.
Sky Blue Topaz Sterling Silver Necklace - November Birthstone Necklace
Interesting Facts About Topaz Gemstone
1. Topaz is believed to have been named after a small island in the Red Sea named "Topazos" where golden stones were found. Interestingly, in actuality they were peridot gemstones not topaz!
2. Imperial topaz is one of the most highly sought after gems. So much, in fact, the Imperial was reserved for use for only the Russian Czar, his family and those who chose to gift it to.
3. The name Topaz comes from the Sanskrit word "tapas" meaning "heat" or "fire"
4. In folklore, Topaz was the thought to be the magical cure for mental and physical health that was able to combat even the deathliest of infections. The Greeks believed it has the power to increase and grant the wearer invisibility while the Romans believed it was able to vastly improve one's eyesight.
5. Throughout history, topaz has been an extremely popular gem especially amongst European aristocracy. In fact, both the Portuguese Royal crown and the Parure necklace of Maria Pavlovna (a member of the Swedish royal family) both included large amounts of this gem. Kate Middleton, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, Katy Perry and Cate Blanchett are also huge advocates of the blue gem having famously worn this piece at numerous award ceremonies and social occasions.
Caring for your Topaz jewellery
Topaz is a fairly robust gem, so you don’t have to particularly worry about damaging the stone by storing it alongside other jewellery. Its main weakness is heat, so absolutely make sure to have the gem removed from jewellery if you’re giving it in for any repair or alteration jobs that will involve high temperatures.
Another thing to keep in mind is that many topaz are irradiated to improve or induce brighter and more vibrant colours, and prolonged exposure to light will undo this process. If the exposure to light is too much, then even a naturally vibrant topaz will start to lose its colour, so we’d recommend keeping them out of the light regardless of whether they are irradiated or not.
Where to buy Topaz
The large variety of topaz colours makes it an incredibly adaptable gem. We’ve heard tales of fashionistas with a different coloured topaz to match each outfit. This doesn’t have to be you of course, but whatever your mood or style, there’s a topaz ready to fit you to a T. Our personal favourites are the blue topaz which go so well with sterling silver, perfect for an elegant bracelet or ring depending on your preference.