Gem of the Month – Yellow Topaz

imperial.jpgYellow topaz is also known as the modern birthstone for November.  Although now probably overtaken by the more commonly used Citrine, Topaz is a particularly lovely gemstone which is deserving of more recognition in its “precious” form.

Photo at left from is a good example of Imperial Topaz from Mineral and Gemstone Kingdom

Gemmology Matters:   Natural Topaz is a fluro silicate with the chemical formula Al2SiO4(F,OH).  It is found in a variety of colors including brown, red, orange, pink, sherry, yellow as well as colourless.  Often the shades from yellow through to red are termed “Precious Topaz” with particular colour combinations described as “Imperial Topaz” – those gems denoted as Imperial and the very rare red varieties command the highest prices.  The definition of Imperial Topaz colour (reddish-orange?) can be quite complicated – see this Gemology Online thread for more discussion on this subject. 

sherry_topaz.jpg This example of a sherry coloured topaz crystal is from John Betts Fine Minerals (Gem Crystals catalogue) – this specimen is from Pakistan and shows the hexagonal crystal habit of topaz very clearly.

Green and blue topaz are naturally very pale, the very bright colours often found in jewellery today are the result in irradiation treatment – Sky Blue, Swiss Blue and London Blue are names used by the gem trade to refer to the depth of color.   See our Blue Topaz article for more information.   Please note that surface colour coatings are becoming more common in Topaz – starting with the multi-colour version of Mystic Topaz, but now also used to create other colours such as pink.  Gems treated in this way should be treated with care to avoid damaging the colour coating.  These types of gems should be far cheaper than naturally coloured stones so be wary when purchasing brightly coloured Topaz and ask about enhancement treatments first.

The principal sources for topaz is Brazil – also found in Sri Lanka, Russia, Australia, Africa, Mexico and Pakistan.  Topaz is an excellent gemstone for jewellery with a hardness of 8 – although it has perfect cleavage which may present some danger when setting in jewellery.  For this reason, topaz should be treated with care and protected from hard knocks.

Mythology and Lore:   While the blue variety of topaz is for those born in December, yellow topaz is the modern November birthstone.  Topaz may be given to celebrate the 4th, 19th and 23rd wedding anniversaries.

Most of the mythology for topaz relates to the yellow variety as natural blue topaz is quite rare and pale in colour.  The Egyptians believed that topaz was coloured with the golden glow of Ra – the sun god.  The importance of Ra made topaz a very powerful protective amulet for the faithful.  This link with the sun was also found in ancient Roman culture where topaz was associated Jupiter, also a God of the Sun.

Topaz was once thought to strengthen the mind, increase wisdom, and prevent mental disorders.  It was also thought to guard against sudden death.  Legend says that topaz has the power to dispel all enchantment and help improve eyesight.  The ancient Greeks used the gem to increase strength and make its wearer invisible in times of crisis.  Used in medicine in ancient time, topaz was said to cure insomnia, asthma, and hemorrhages.

imperial-topaz.jpg This imperial topaz photograph is from the Palagems Topaz Buying Guide which also has some excellent information on the famous Ouro Preto mine in Brazil (see link below).

Alternatives in Yellow:  The range of colour in Precious Topaz brings to mind the amber gold of fine cognac, the blush of a ripe peach and all the colours of a setting sun.   While its cheaper cousin, Citrine, is commonly used these days and is an alternative November birthstone, it is slightly softer and does not have quite the complexity of colour that is present in a particularly fine Topaz.  Sapphire is also found in yellow – while beryllium treated yellows now abound in the marketplace, a fine golden yellow sapphire of natural colour can command very high prices. 

Links of Interest:

Aussie Sapphire does not currently have any topaz in stock – we do have a small supply of good yellow sapphire (natural and basic heat only – no beryllium treatment).  None of this is currently listed but we invite you to contact us directly if you are interested.

cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire

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2 Responses to Gem of the Month – Yellow Topaz

  1. […] November – Citrine and Yellow (Precious) Topaz […]

  2. Matthew Nowinski says:

    I live in Northern California.
    I’m serving duty in Kosovo Provence of Serbia.
    I’d like to visit places that mine yellow topaz. My son also has this stone as his birthstone, like me. Perhaps you could recommend places we can go?
    Maybe even suggest places we can pan or mine the yellow topaz ourselves?

    I’m personally looking for a large yellow topaz in a mens ring for myself.

    Thank you for your attention to this very important matter. “Matthew”

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