Topaz can be both very common (when clear or in certain colors like brown, which can turn blue when treated) and very rare (when found in natural beautiful colors rare to the species, like pink). Topaz's popularity stems from the gem's good wearability and affordability. Topaz is also often altered with special surface treatments to give it unusual colors and iridescent effects, like mystic, ocean, kiwi, and orchid topaz. Topaz is also a popular birthstone, as blue topaz is December's primary birthstone and yellow topaz is a birthstone for November. Find alternative December birthstones.
|Some gemstones have weaker bonds between their atoms in one direction than in another, referred to as a gem's cleavage. Topaz has basal cleavage (weaker bonds parallel to the base), so it should be cut from the crystal at a particular angle, polished and set carefully. For this reason, and because topaz isn't very tough, a hard knock or drop onto a hard surface could break it. Extreme pressure and sudden temperature changes could also cause topaz to break, so ultrasonic and steam cleaners should be avoided, as should prolonged exposure to high heat or bright light to prevent fading. As with most gems, the safest way to clean topaz is with warm soapy water and a soft brush.|
|In addition to colorless and the well-known blues, topaz occurs in yellow, orange, reddish-brown, light to dark blue, red, violet, light green, and rare pink. Topaz is usually found colorless and heated or otherwise treated to achieve various colors, including the popular blue hues. Naturally blue topaz is extremely rare, and even rarer is red topaz, which--according to GIA--accounts for less than one half of one percent of all gem-quality topaz mined in the world. Another rare and valuable variety of topaz is imperial topaz, a name that is technically supposed to refer to topaz in intensely saturated warm orange or orange-red hues only if they also show red, reddish-orange, or purplish-orange pleochroism when viewed face up. Other than colorless, perhaps the most common of topaz colors are golden and yellow topaz. Darker stones of this hue, though, in orange-to-yellow and brownish hues, are called precious topaz or sherry topaz, because of their resemblance to the color of sherry wine. |
|Though most colors of topaz are fairly common and therefore generally affordable, red and pink topaz are rare, highly sought after, and subsequently more valuable. Imperial topaz is one of the most valuable of those. Imperial topaz was named such to honor the Russian czar and royalty, because at the time, the Ural Mountains of Russia were a leading source of pink topaz and ownership of it was limited to the imperial family. That was pink topaz, however; today it's generally the reddish-orange or orange-red variety of topaz that's considered "Imperial." Some also consider yellowish-orange, cognac-colored, and pure orange to be Imperial topaz. The value is clear when it comes to pure red topaz, which accounts for less than half of one percent of faceted topaz, is highly sought after, and usually priced accordingly.|
Name Origin and Meaning
One possible source for the name "topaz" is Topazos, the former name of Zebirget, an island in the Red Sea near an early topaz discovery. Tapaz, the Sanskrit word for "fire," is another possibility. Some experts believe that the stone originally named topaz was actually peridot.
Topaz has had various values attributed to it during its long history, including gentleness, fidelity, friendship, and integrity. It is also believed to bring its bearers and wearers love, wealth, and protection.
In rare cases, some blue or yellowish-orange topaz can display chatoyancy (the cat's-eye effect).
Discovery and History
Mentioned in the Old Testament, the actual discovery of topaz is ancient and unknown. Some scholars believe the stone referred to in the Bible as topaz was actually peridot. The first real topaz gems--in the modern, scientifically accurate sense of the word--were yellow crystals found around 1737 in Germany.
This incredibly unusual, natural bi-color topaz from JTV's The Vault is believed to be the result of a "super rare one-time gemological event," according to our high-end gemstone buyer, Jay Boyle. It's completely untreated, displaying a natural blue and champagne color combination. Jay believes this topaz formed as usual and then, miraculously, came into contact with a natural radioactive element deep in the earth, which caused the phenomenal color banding. To his knowledge, there has never been another discovery of natural bi-color topaz, leading Jay to believe this occurrence in Russia is the only one of its kind. There is no source mine for this material, Jay explained, saying it was "a single pocket of rough that Mother Nature created in a unique, never-before-seen way." This museum-worthy bi-color topaz weighs an impressive 442 carats.
Mystic topaz is treated with vapor deposition to achieve the wonderful colors. Vapor deposition is a treatment that involves a strong electrical charge being used to deposit and fuse a special chemical formula bath onto a stone. The thin film coating causes light interference and creates an eye-catching rainbow effect.