Until the 18th century, the word topaz was often used to describe the peridot, which is the green, gem version of the mineral olivine. Back then, topaz was taken from Topazios, the ancient name of an island in the Red Sea where olivine was mined. But strikes at a mine in Saxony, in present-day Germany, during most of the 1700s aligned the aluminum-fluorine silicate with a sherry-colored gem.

This, of course, sowed the seeds of even more confusion since topaz, which is harder than emeralds but not as hard as rubies or sapphires, can range in color from pale yellow to pink to blue. And did we mention that most topaz deposits are actually colorless? This fact probably resulted is the mislabeling of the Branzanga “diamond,” which was mined in Brazil in 1740, brought to Lisbon at the end of that century, and is now thought to have been a topaz, although its whereabouts have been unknown since the early 1800s.

The majority of the topaz on the world market comes from the Capao mine in Brazil. Because the natural colors of topaz tend to be quite pale, the stone is routinely treated to make its colors more vibrant. For example, yellow stones turn pink when subjected to heat—the process is so common for topaz that it’s called “pinking.” Untreated, so-called “precious” or "imperial" pink topaz is actually very rare.

Other topaz crystals, particularly those mined in Sri Lanka, are irradiated to make them blue. Radiation leaves the stones “hot” for several months, but the gems lose their radioactivity and are safe to wear after just a few months. Still, because of health concerns, topaz is often labeled to help consumers better understand what they are about to buy and how the gem’s hue was achieved.

Serious jewelry collectors don't put much stock in the common irradiated blue topaz used in bracelets, necklaces, and earrings, be they London, Swiss, or cobalt in hue. Some radiation-produced colors, especially yellows, can actually fade when exposed to sunlight, although this not a problem for radiation-generated blues. In fact, all topaz, even the untreated precious or imperial gems, are said to “bleed,” or lose color, in natural and fluorescent light.

Cut is another way jewelers bring out the normally quiet colors of topaz. Wide, step cuts such as an emerald cut expose the stone’s soft brilliance. As a less-expensive alternative to diamonds and sapphires, topazes are also given brilliant cuts in an attempt to mimic the look of their more sought-after cousins.

The relatively low cost of topaz has made it a favorite stone in showy rings and pendants, where the price of a similarly sized diamond would be prohibitive. Even larger examples of topaz can be found in museums around the world, which house topaz gemstones that have been cut into impossible-to-wear sizes...

One of the most famous of these monster gems is the American Golden Topaz, which resides at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. This 10-pound stone of Brazilian origin boasts almost 23,000 carats and features 172 facets.

Smaller but more vivid is the 8,225-carat, cushion-cut Topaz Azul, which resides in the Programa Royal Collections based in Madrid. This stone’s Swiss blue is spectacular, but it was probably achieved by bombarding it with electrons in a linear accelerator, exposing it to neutrons in a nuclear reactor, and then heat treating it.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]

Jewel History

Jewel History

Since March of 2007, readers of Lori Ettlinger Gross’s Jewel History blog have been treated to her weekly (someti… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Modern 15.00ct Amethyst Blue Topaz 14k Gold Floral Chain Necklace 21.3 Grams NrRoberto Coin Diamond Blue Topaz 18k Yellow Gold Ring 15.7 Grams $5580.00 NrModern 14.34 Blue Topaz Diamond 18k Gold Cuff Bangle Bracelet 61.7 Grams NrEstate 17.11 Ct Natural Vvs1 London Blue Topaz & Diamond 14k White Gold Ring GemAmazing Antique Victorian Finely Crafted Blue Topaz 10k Rose Gold Ring 3.2gEstate Blue Topaz Enamel 14k White Gold Stud Earrings 8.7 Grams Nr**estate 14k Yellow Gold Blue Topaz Ring 10.2x13.8mm 4.3 Grams Size 9.25Estate Diamond 20.60ct Blue Topaz 14k White Gold Pendant 11.9 Grams NrVintage Jewellery Fabulous Sterling Silver, Real Amethyst And Topaz BroochFine Pair 18ct/18k/18carat/750 Gold Blue Topaz Drop Dangly EarringsLadies' Stunning Vintage Silver Blue Topaz And Sapphire NecklaceHuge Dian Malouf 14k Gold Frame Blue Topaz Sterling Silver Swirl Ring Size 7.25** Estate 14k Yellow Gold Blue Topaz Diamond Ring 4pts H-i I1 3.2 Grams 9.5x13mmJames Avery Sterling&18k Yg Christina Ring W/blue Topaz-size 7-no Res!John Atecino White Topaz 18k Gold Silver Oval Stud Earrings 8.3 Grams NrEstate 14k White Gold Natural Briolette Blue Topaz And Diamond Pendant 2.25 CtsFine Heavy 18ct/18k/18carat/750 Gold Yellow Topaz And Diamond Designer RingFinest Antique Art Deco Platinum & 15ct Gold Pink Topaz Bar Brooch14kt Yellow Gold 3.5ctw London Blue Topaz Stud Earrings 14k 1.75ct Each 1.6gr18ct/18k White Gold Diamond & Blue Topaz Art Deco Design Heavy Pendant, 750Vintage Art Deco Jewellery Sparkling Blue Sapphire & Topaz Rhinestone Bracelet14k Solid Gold Huge 7.8g Blue Topaz Diamond Ring Sz 7 Vintage BeautifulModern 2.00ct Blue Topaz 18k White Gold Half Huggie Earrings 6.1 Grams NrEstate 14k Yellow Gold .75ct Heart Cut Blue Topaz Solitaire Ladies Ring 1.0g1.50 Carat Topaz Solitaire 9ct Gold Stud Earrings P1050Vintage Sterling Silver - Taxco Pebbled Blue Topaz Fish 19.4g - Key Chain Gw6413Vintage Art Deco Era Signed 14k White Gold Ornate Filigree Pink Topaz Glass RingGorgeous Authentic Judith Ripka 36" Sterling Silver Blue Topaz Toggle NecklaceEstate $1700 18k White Gold 5.00 Ct Natural White Topaz And Diamond Pendant**estate 10k Yellow Gold Blue Topaz Diamond Ring 10.2x15.1mm 2pts 4.5 Grams Vintage Solid 14k Gold Dark Blue Blue Topaz & Diamond Wide Band Ring 5.6 GramAntique Vintage 10kt Gold Blue Topaz Bracelet 3.63 Gr Beautiful~ Wear Not ScrapVintage Yellow Gold Amethyst Topaz Peridot Multi Gemstone Fashion BraceletVintage 14k Yellow Gold Fancy Cut Pink Topaz Ladies Ring 5.0gModern 0.15ct White Topaz Sterling Silver Enamel Shoe Stud Earrings NrFine 9ct / 9k 375 White Gold Topaz Amethyst And Peridot Bracelet Vintage Sterling Silver - Emerald-cut Pink Topaz Cocktail 9.1g - Ring (6.5)**estate 14k Yellow Gold Amethyst Multi Color Topaz Ting 3.7 Grams Size 9.25 Vintage Antique Solid 9ct 333 German Gold Ring W/ 4 Blue Topaz Or Sapphire StoneStunning Vintage Lapis Lazuli & Blue Topaz 9ct Gold Cluster RingSterling Silver Vintage 925 Cluster Slider Citrine Topaz Pendant (9.3g) - 541638Silver Citrine Peridot Topaz Bracelet Real StonesSterling Silver 925 Filigree Vintage Topaz Amethyst Citrine Bracelet HallmarkedVintage Art Deco Silver And Topaz Chain Bracelet Vintage Sterling Silver Red Garnet Topaz & Marcasite Turtle Tortoise Pin BroochVintage 14k Yellow Gold Blue Topaz & Pearl 30th Anniversary Necklace Pendant YqzEstate $1200 14k Yellow Gold 4.50 Ct Synthetic Azotic Topaz And Diamond RingSterling Silver Vintage 925 Carved Band Solitaire Topaz Ring Sz 7.25 4.3g 541909Vintage Sterling Silver Aquamarine Blue Topaz 30 White Quartz Gemstone RingEstate 4ct Natural Blue Topaz Sterling Silver 14k Yellow Gold Filigree RingFantastic Blue Topaz & Diamond Pendant 14ktImpressive Crocodile/alligator Topaz Rhinestone Runay NecklaceGrandmas Estate Doug Paulus Dp Sterling Silver Blue Topaz Chunky BraceletGrandmas Estate Western Sterling Silver Blue Topaz Marcasite Earrings 7ct London Blue Topaz 925 Solid Sterling Silver Edwardian Style Ring Sz 7Estate $1100 14k Yellow Gold Seven Natural Oval Blue Topaz Ring 2.10 Cts**estate 14k Yellow Gold Blue Topaz 4pt Diamonds Ring H-i Si2 2.8 Grams Estate Mystic Topaz 14k Yellow Gold Pendant 6.4 Grams NrSolid 14k Yellow Gold, Pear Cut 4.30 Cttw Blue Topaz & Diamond, Estate EarringsBeautiful, Vintage, Deco Style Sterling Silver Earrings/natural Jade/white Topaz