What is Topaz?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Topaz is a precious gemstone that is most often amber in color. When pure, this stone is colorless, but additions of minerals create the typical yellow hue. Degree of yellows can vary, some leaning toward brown while others are more greenish. The most desirable of the stones, however, is the Imperial Topaz, which is brown with peach undertones.

Topaz is primarily mined in South America and Mexico.
Topaz is primarily mined in South America and Mexico.

Several treatments can significantly affect the color of the topaz. When exposed to heat, the color becomes either pink to red. Blue topaz is the result of irradiation of the stone, and these gems have become quite popular in recent years. A recently patented form of the stone, called the Mystic Fire Topaz, involves first irradiating the stone to achieve the blue color, and then coating the stone with chemicals to cause a multi-colored affect.

Topaz is the birthstone of November.
Topaz is the birthstone of November.

Though now primarily mined in South America and Mexico, this gem was prized by ancient civilizations as well, and was available throughout Europe and Africa. However, most yellow stones, whether they were citrine or topaz, were called topaz by the Ancient Greeks. This tradition continued until about 100 years ago, when the stones were more properly classified.

Topaz can be turned blue by irradiating the gemstone.
Topaz can be turned blue by irradiating the gemstone.

Egyptians believed the color of topaz in its natural form came directly from the Sun God Ra. The wearer was said to have keen sight, and also to be protected from evil spirits. The gem was also heralded as promoting good health and a serene mind.

Today, topaz is the birthstone of November, and also connects to the astrological sign of Sagittarius. The Imperial Topaz, peachy brown in color and highly prized, is associated with royalty. It is the traditional gift of jewelry for celebrating 23rd wedding anniversaries as well.

Even when treated, this stone retains a hardness of approximately 8 on the Mohs scale. This makes the stone excellent for everyday wear, though wearers should remove the jewelry when doing any hard physical labor. Because of the way the stone in rough form crystallizes, it is most often available in emerald and pear cuts. Other cuts may not be available in larger sizes.

Like other crystallized gems, topaz is evaluated for cut, color and clarity. It is also known for forming large gems with few inclusions. Therefore, one can choose exceptionally large loose stones of 3-4 carats for pendants or rings.

The best stones tend to be priced at about $500 US dollars (USD) per carat. Stones larger than 2-3 carats have a larger per carat price. Imperial stones of best quality may cost considerably more, and may run as much as $1,000 USD per carat.

Topaz will not make you invisible as the Ancient Greeks believed, but will in fact accomplish the opposite. A large stone seeming to hold the sun within itself cannot fail to be noticed by others. Blue topaz, as well, like blue ocean water caught in a gem, creates a beautiful look that will surely be enjoyed.

Topaz is is the traditional gift of jewelry for celebrating 23rd wedding anniversaries.
Topaz is is the traditional gift of jewelry for celebrating 23rd wedding anniversaries.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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anon183152

what's the source?

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