Topaz Properties Facts and Photos
1. Most Topaz is Colourless
2. Origins of the Name
3. Birthstone for November
4. Healing Properties
5. Article Photos
5. Our Collection of Topaz
Most Natural Topaz is Colourless
Topaz is a silicate mineral made up of aluminium and fluorine. Crystals form within igneous rocks.
Although topaz can be found in several different colours the vast majority is colourless. Most topaz is heated to enhance or change the colour of the colourless stone.
The colour in red pink violet and purple topaz is caused by the presence of chromium. Stones can also be found in white, yellow, grey, blue, orange, brown or green.
Blue topaz is extremely rare so the vast majority is irradiated, heat treated or both. By doing this it's possible to transform colourless topaz into a gemstone that's highly sought after around the world.
Gemstones that have been exposed to any level of radiation cannot be made available for sale until the level of radiation has reduced enough to make them safe to handle. In most blue topaz that happens soon after the treatment has been completed.
Scientists believe wearing a gemstone that has been irradiated poses no risk to health.
Depending on the type of treatment applied, three shades of blue can be produced. Each has its own name. Sky Blue is the lightest shade and best known variety. Swiss Blue and London Blue both have a deeper and richer colour. Swiss and London Blue are more expensive than Sky Blue because of the type of treatment they've been exposed to.
Another reason for heating topaz is because in many cases its natural colour can be bleached by sunlight. This is particularly prevalent with the brown variety from Siberia and Utah.
Temperature and the method of heating will always be the deciding factor for the stone's colour. With that said, some topaz is coated with metallic oxides.
Although topaz is one of the hardest of all minerals, it's actually quite fragile. Stones are known to fracture or break quite easily along plains of the crystal. Cleavage is the tendency for a crystalline solid to split or fracture along certain lines. This happens when there's a weakness between atoms in the crystal's structure.
Topaz grades 8 on Mohs scale of mineral hardness. Mohs scale is a tool which measures scratch resistance not toughness.
Origins of the Name Topaz
Historically all yellow coloured gemstones were believed to be topaz. Only in the last two hundred years or so was it discovered other minerals could also be yellow.
Yellow sapphire for many years was called oriental topaz. Even today some varieties of quartz particularly citrine and smoky quartz are still occasionally referred to as topaz. Topaz and quartz are two completely different minerals.
The name topaz is believed to have originated from a small island in the Red Sea once known as Topazios. It lies just off the coast of Egypt and is known today as St. John's Island or Zabargad in Arabic.
Another theory is the name came from the Sanskrit word 'topas' meaning 'heat' or 'fire'.
It's not known whether topaz was even known to ancient civilizations. Nor is it known for certain whether the name topazos was actually a reference to the mineral olivine.
The gemstone peridot which comes from olivine is known to have been available in abundance on the island at that time whereas topaz was never found there.
The ancient Roman author, naturalist and philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote about finding "topazos" on St John's Island in his encyclopaedia Naturalis Historia.
Topaz can be traced back even further and is mentioned in the Old Testament in the Book of Exodus. It's said to have been one of the twelve gemstones in the high priest breastplate. In both references the stone referred to as topaz is believed to have been peridot.
Topaz Mountain Utah | Photo Courtesy of Stan Celestian (clickable image)
Topaz Birthstone for November
Topaz can be found in several countries around the world world. The state of Minas Gerais in Brazil has long been the world's largest supplier.
Topaz is one of the birthstones for the month of November with the other being citrine. Blue topaz is the modern birthstone for December with the mineral turquoise being an alternative.
Metaphysical Healing Properties
When used for its healing properties topaz can be used to cleanse the aura and induce relaxation. A wonderfully mellow stone it soothes the mind, heals the body and recharges energy lost through stress, tension and fatigue.
Topaz promotes the truth, embraces forgiveness and helps rebuild broken friendships.
A happy and positive stone that drives away negative thoughts, it instills confidence and promotes openness and honesty. On a mental level it encourages wisdom, aids problem solving and has the capacity to see the bigger picture.
For those going through a significant change in their life topaz offers comfort and support. It can also help to stabilise emotions that arise from uncertainty.
The topaz at the top of our articles is a museum piece from Pakistan. The colourless stone in the second photo is on display in the Natural History Museum Los Angeles. The topaz in the third photo is from Utah, USA. The second and third photo are courtesy of Stan Celestian. All three photos are clickable and redirect to the original non-compressed image.