Topaz is a mineral species that naturally occurs in a range of color, including various reds, pinks, purples, yellows, oranges, browns, and more rarely, pale blue. Topaz in yellow and reddish brown are commonly heated to create more desirable pink gems.
The name for Imperial Topaz originated in nineteenth-century Russia. At the time, the Ural Mountains were Topaz’s leading source, and the pinkish-orange gemstone mined there was named to honor the Russian czar. Ownership of the gem was restricted to the royal family only.
It is not surprising that Blue Topaz has become one of the top-selling gems in the jewelry business. Blue Topaz is unusual in offering excellent hardness (8 on the Mohs scale) and brilliance at a very reasonable cost, compare to other blues in the gem world, such as Blue Diamonds, Sapphires, Tanzanites and Blue Spinels. As in the case of other blue gems, the more saturated blues tend to have a higher value. So in Topaz, it is the "London Blue" that usually regarded as the most valuable. "London Blue" Topaz is a medium to dark grayish blue, sometimes described as "steely" or "inky". Many London blue gems have a slightly greenish tone when viewed from certain angles. However, due to its extreme rarity in nature, the vast majority of blue topaz on the market also originate from gems that have been irradiated and heated. Virtually all the blue topaz on the market is produced by treating white topaz with radiation.
The name of this gemstone is likely derived from the island of Topazos, in the Red Sea, where Romans found yellowish gems. Ancient Egyptians said the gemstone was colored with the golden glow of the mighty sun god Ra, giving it the power to protect the faithful against harm. Perhaps because it is the color of gold, Imperial Topaz is believed to bring prosperity when worn. Topaz is a very abundant material, but natural topaz occurs mainly in white (colorless) and brown; natural blue topaz is actually very rare. Colorless topaz treated to blue is a mass-market gem. Fine pink-to-red, purple, or orange gems are one-of-a-kind pieces. The reason that the color of topaz can be changed by irradiation is due to the special way that topaz gets its color. Most gems, such as sapphire, are colored by trace elements such as iron or titanium. Some gems, such as peridot, are colored by elements in their essential chemical composition. But topaz is unique in that the color results from so-called color centers, which are imperfections in the crystal lattice that change the way the crystal absorbs light. Top sources of Topaz include Ouro Prêto, Brazil, and Russia's Ural Mountains. The most valued Topaz colors are orangy-red to red. Topaz is pleochroic, displaying different colors in different crystal directions
The ancient Greeks believed that Topaz gave them strength. In Europe during the Renaissance (the period from the 1300s to the 1600s) people thought that Topaz could break magic spells and dispel anger. For centuries, many people in India have believed that Topaz worn above the heart assures long life, beauty, and intelligence.
Photos Courtesy of GIA