TOPAZ: November Birthstone
The ancient Egyptians believed that the gemstone topaz was colored by the glow of the sun god, Ra. The ancient Greeks believed topaz had the power to increase strength and make its wearer invisible in times of emergency. Early discoveries of topaz from Brazil adorned the jewelry of the 18th and 19th Century Russian Czarinas, earning the stone the moniker of “Imperial Topaz.”
Today, topaz deposits are found in Brazil, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Russia, Africa and China.
Topaz can feature the amber-gold of cognac or the blush of a peach, and any shade of warm brown or orange in between. Some rare and exceptional examples are pale pink to sherry red.
Blue, once the rarest color of topaz, is now the most common, due to an enhancement process that turns colorless topaz blue. After the raw topaz is extracted from the earth and cut, it is irradiated to brown and then heated to sky blue. This enhancement process is permanent.
SELECTING A STONE
Due to the popularity of blue topaz, a new treatment process called vapor deposition has been developed to create additional colors. In this process, a thin colored film is bonded on the surface of topaz to create dark blue, red, pink, and green colors, or rainbow iridescence. These vapor deposition-enhanced topaz colors must be handled with special care, as the coating can be scratched or abraded.
Topaz occasionally grows in massive crystals – the largest known is 597 pounds. It also holds the record for the world’s largest faceted gemstone at 36,854 carats.
Precious topaz is most often found in a scissors cut, a rectangular gem cut with curved sides and triangular facets. Oval, cushion, and emerald cuts are also popular.
With a hardness of 8, topaz is ideal for everyday wear. To clean topaz jewelry at home, soak pieces in a solution of warm water and a mild dish detergent. Use a soft brush to clean behind the setting where dust can collect, and let dry on a soft towel.