Colorless or brown in its purest form, the topaz is a stunning gem that occurs naturally in many gorgeous shades, but rarely in purple, pink and deep blue. The colored varieties are mostly identified by names such as blue topaz and pink topaz, among others. Rarer versions of this gem have been allotted trade names like imperial topaz and sherry topaz.
While the exact origin of its name is still a mystery, many believe that it was derived from the Greek word topazios; a small island in the Red Sea. This island used to be a source of peridot, which was once mistaken for topaz before the development of modern mineralogy. Other sources claim that the name originated from the Sanskrit word tapas, which means fire.
This gem is found in sedimentary iron formations composed of hematite and silica minerals, cavities of granite and in the igneous and volcanic rock Rhyolite. It is also formed in quartz veins and alluvial deposits. While these rocks and deposits are found in mines present all across the world, Brazil still remains the main source of this gem. Natural blue topaz is predominantly produced in Texas, USA and the Ural Mountains, Russia. The colorless version of this gem, also referred to as silver topaz, can be found in Sri Lanka, Nigeria and China. The extremely rare pink topaz is mined in Russia and the Katlang area of Pakistan.
Topaz has been around for centuries and has garnered attention for its many remarkable qualities. This gem was used in the Middle East for adornment, over 2000 years ago.
According to the Bible, topaz was one of the 12 stones used to build the foundation of the walls of the New Jerusalem (heaven). It was revered as the stone of truth and forgiveness. While the Egyptians believed that this gem derived its golden glow from the powerful Sun God “Ra”, the Romans dedicated it to the king of all gods – Jupiter.
Hardness & Strength
Topaz scores an 8 on Mohs scale, which makes it a hard and durable stone that’s perfect for everyday wear. However, as with all gems, a topaz too must be protected from hard impacts.
At the cutting stage, the perfect cleavage of this stone can present a challenge. But usually, cutters orient the table of the stone 5-10% off the cleavage plane. This results in a considerably stable stone that’s suitable for a variety of jewelry, such as rings, pendants and earrings.
Most of the naturally available topaz stones begin their journey as crystals that are colorless, dull and sometimes very lightly tinted. The advancement in technology has resulted in various techniques that are now utilized to enhance the color and luster of this gemstone.
Heat: This is a widely practiced treatment that has been used for centuries to dramatically change the color of a topaz. Almost 95% of all scintillating blue topaz stones are actually colorless, but heat treatment carried out at around 200 degree Celsius causes them to change their color. The result of this treatment is stable and permanent.
Irradiation: This process is similar to heat treatment and involves exposing the topaz to an artificial source of radiation. Irradiation could be followed up with heat to further modify the color.
Quality & Grading
Topaz, especially the blue colored, is one of the most popular semi-precious gemstones available in the market. The quality of this alluring gemstone is determined by several factors, with the color being the most important.
This gem is available in a variety of colors, however pure topaz is colorless and included. A good quality cut and industrial treatments are often utilized to give most topaz stones a deeper and brighter hue. An extremely rare pink or orange topaz is reasonably more expensive than the commonly occurring colors, such as yellow.
Imperial topaz is the most costly variety of naturally occurring topaz stones. It features a vivid orange color with pink undertones and is extremely rare. A genuine Imperial topaz is not treated, irradiated, or artificially colored.
A faceted blue topaz is generally free from eye-visible inclusions, but the other rare colored varieties of this gemstone may be included. Inclusions will not have a significant impact on the price of a topaz if it features a rare color. But visible inclusions on a common colored topaz will dramatically reduce its value and price.
Just like diamonds, topaz stones display perfect cleavage which helps them sparkle brilliantly, provided they are well cut. Topaz is available in a variety of shapes, with emerald and cushion being the most popular. Common cuts for this gemstone include pear, triangular, marquise and oval.
Topaz rough is not expensive as it is found abundantly. This ensures that topaz stones in fancy and non-traditional cuts are available at reasonable prices.
The ready availability of large sized topaz stones makes them inexpensive. When buying this gemstone, it’s crucial to keep many other factors in mind besides the carat. The cut, color and clarity play a significant role in determining the value and price of a topaz, so choose a stone that scores high on all of these parameters.
The value of a precious topaz witnesses an exponential jump when the stone is larger than 10 carats. Even so, topaz is widely considered as an affordable gem that adapts well to almost any type of jewelry.
Taking into consideration the various properties of a topaz, it can be segregated into the following categories of quality:
Eye-clean and brilliant, only the top 1% of remarkably rare topaz stones belong to this category. They have no visible inclusions and radiate a distinctive, Swiss blue color.
This category comprises of the top 10% of topaz stones. They also display the eye-clean property, which indicates no visible inclusions. The gemstones belonging to this category feature a light Swiss blue color.
Top 33% of the available topaz stones fall in this category. Sky blue in color, they have slight inclusions.
Light sky blue in color, this category includes the top 75% of available topaz stones that have slight to moderate inclusions.
Topaz is a brilliant gemstone with a good level of hardness, but its perfect cleavage (often reduced with a good cut) can make it susceptible to surface cracks when struck hard. Keep these simple measures in mind to ensure that your topaz jewelry lasts a lifetime.
- Do not wear your topaz jewelry while doing household chores, exercising, or any activity that may lead to accumulation of sweat and dirt.
- Protect your jewelry from prolonged exposure to direct sunlight or any other kind of heat.
- To clean your topaz jewelry, use warm soapy water and a soft brush. Rinse well after washing to get rid of any soap residue. Use a soft cloth to wipe dry.
- Place topaz separately from other gemstone jewelry to avoid scratches.
- Use a soft cloth or a fabric lined box for safe storage.
Ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended for this gemstone.