THE TOPAZ - NOVEMBER'S BIRTHSTONE
Topaz is the birthstone for November in a lovely Yellow to Brown shade, but actually when found in blue, as an alternate birthstone for December as well.
It is said by historians that the name topaz comes from Topazios, the old Greek name for a little island in the Red Sea, between Asia and Africa. It is now called Zabargad St. John's Island. This Island was actually known for producing Peridots, which come from volcanic activity deep below the earth's crust, but when these stones were first found by early gem identifiers they were confused and called these Peridots, Topaz. Then, possibly said like " Tapaz" or "Topas" which means "Heat" or "Fire" in ancient Sanskrit.
Topaz is a gemstone on the hard side. At a Moh’s 8, it is durable and suitable for use in rings since the gemstone can withstand every-day wear, and can be both cut into standard faceted gemstones, and also made into carvings. As with most gemstones, care must be taken to avoid sharp blows and strikes directly to the gemstone, as Topaz has a tendency to fracture when struck with force.
Where to find them:
Topaz can be found in Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, the Ural and Ilmen mountains of Russia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, and the United States. Here in the USA Topaz is found in Utah and Texas.
Colors and Treatments:
Topaz comes in many colors, its most natural color being in the range of yellow to brown color, which is the official color of the November Birthstone, and when found in the shade of Orange, is also the official US state gemstone of Utah! The range of colors can be colorless, to pale yellow or olivine, through orange, brown, and even pink and violet.
The Ural Mountains in Russia was a major source of the pink Topaz and was named Imperial Topaz to honor the Russian Czar and was considered a stone only for Royalty.
Though rare, Topaz also comes in light through dark shades of blue with the darker coming out in a teal called London Blue Topaz (a favorite of mine!!!) but they are so hard to find in this hue in a natural untreated state that in order to really get this color, light yellow and colorless topaz are treated with heat and irradiated to achieve the beautiful, sought after blues. This is why in the gemstone and jewelry industry it is a well known and accepted fact that pretty much every blue Topaz you will come across will have been treated in some way. Blue topaz is the US state gemstone of Texas, and the alternate birthstone for December.
Another accepted treatment for Topaz is to adhere vaporized titanium to its surface after faceting the stone into it's final gemstone shape, creating the magical and colorful Mystic Topaz. This lovely sparkler has many shades of shiny colors all on one stone which gives the stones depth and a magical feel.
The Topaz has a rich and interesting history of royalty and reverence. Europeans thought that the Topaz was able to break magical spells and hexes, cured lunacy, and aid in protection. The ancient Greeks believed that topaz gave them strength and a sturdy constitution. And some in India believed that topaz worn above the heart assures "long life, beauty, and intelligence".
The El Dorado Topaz
The largest Topaz - and for that matter, largest faceted gemstone in general is the El Dorado Topaz. Coming in at a whopping 31,000carats, (more than 13 pounds!!!) this hunker resides in the Special Exhibitions Gem Collection of the Programa Royal Collections Group, based in Madrid, Spain. The pre-cut weight of this massive stone came in at a stunning 81.57 lbs and was found in Minas Gerais, Brazil in 1984.
The Braganza “Diamond”
Originally thought to be a diamond The Braganza Diamond is actually a topaz, and was discovered in Minas Gerais in Brazil around 1797 but sources are a bit cloudy and the discover could have actually been earlier than that. It is a ginormous crystal weighing in at 1,680 carats and lore says that King John the VI wore it around his neck for special ceremonial purposes. The Braganza Diamond is said to get its name from the name of the ruling dynasty of Portugal, the House of Braganza. Portugal was the ruling colonial power of Brazil at the time.
The American Golden Topaz
The largest cut and faceted yellow Topaz in the world is the American Golden Topaz and weighs in at 22,892.5 carats. Again hailing from Minas Gerais in Brazil, this boulder was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1988 and is displayed in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
The Chalmers Topaz
Another massive Topaz is the Chalmers Topaz, cut and faceted, and weighing in at 5,899.5 Carats! It is clear with a blue hue and absolutely stunning! It lives in Chicago, USA at the Grainger Hall of Gems, in the Field Museum of Natural History.
The Lindsay and The Freeman Uncut Topaz Specimens
Shown here are the The Lindsay Uncut Topaz (Left),The American Golden Topaz (Center, as mentioned earlier) and the Freeman Uncut Topaz (Right). These 2 uncut specimens are well known for their weight and are fine examples of some of the largest in the world. The Lindsay comes in around 70 lbs, and the Freeman at around 110 lbs. Both live in the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. WOW!!!
To all the November babies out there, a big Happy Birthday to you! I hope you have a beautiful season and enjoyed learning more about your beautiful birthstone!