Updated: Nov 29, 2020
Originally put into jewelry primarily in its brown and yellow forms, Topaz is a versatile gem naturally colorless but can appear in many colors because of impurities. Most common colors are brown and yellow, but Topaz is also found in a large variation of colors such as pink, orange, red, blue, purple, green. Most of these colors don’t occur naturally and are a result of irradiation treatment.
Known as the hardest of silicate minerals, Topaz is the reference mineral for hardness 8 on the Mohs scale. Chemically, it is a fluorine aluminum silicate, and the gemstone typically occurs in igneous rock. This is a stone that forms from the cooling of magma and ash from volcanoes or other faults in the earth’s crust. Often, topaz forms in the same areas as quartz crystals. To the untrained eye, it is also mistaken for other minerals of the same colors, such as Citrine which is the second Gem stone for the month of November. One of the more unusual properties of Topaz is that it displays pleochroism, which means its color can be different based on the way a stone is viewed. This phenomenon is a result of the way light passes through the stone. Sometimes the color is darker in one direction than another, and in other cases the color can appear to change completely.
Although Topaz comes in many colors, various shades have been more popular at different times in history.
Right now, the most common color is blue. While blue tinted or hues of blue Topaz can exist in nature, most of the material is colorless or brown crystals that have been treated with heat and radiation to create the color. Before this technique was developed, brown and yellow were the most common colors for jewelry.
Besides blue topaz, there are other famous shades of this lovely stone. For one thing, there is imperial topaz. This is a red orange variety, and it is extremely valuable. Named for the Imperial Family of Russia, it was first found in the Ural Mountains. Nowadays, imperial topaz is primarily mined in Brazil. Popular treated colors include mystic topaz (clear with a metallic coating on the faceted gem), pink topaz (typically heated), and purple (can be natural, but often coated). Overall, this variety of color makes topaz a very versatile gemstone for jewelry.
Topaz can be found all over the world. In fact, it is found on every continent. Most modern production is in Brazil. Mining is done both through underground mining and picking through surface deposits.
With roots in the ancient world, Topaz has a storied history. Experts disagree on the origin of the name, but there are two major theories. First, the dominant theory has it named for an island which the Greeks called Topazios. The second, less common theory is that it is derived from the Sanskrit word “tapaz” or “topas,” both of which mean “fire.” Sagittarius is the astrological sign related to November and happens to be a Fire sign.
In biblical times Topaz is believed to be the gem stone to decorate the breastplate of the High Priest. In ancient Greece Topaz was considered to be a source of strength. They believed it can attract gold to its owner and draw both good-will and wisdom to kings. Other ancient cultures like African Shamans see this gemstone as a protector from dark magic or the evil eye. Medieval Europeans believed topaz could help strengthen vision, and cool anger. Hindus believe Topaz is sacred and can bring wisdom and longevity to the wearer. When using crystals for Healing, Topaz is used to strengthen the thyroid glands, and enhance the metabolism. The Chakras connected to Topaz are heart, throat and third eye.