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 JewelHistory blog have been treated to her weekly (sometim… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Fine Pink Topaz And Diamond Gold Flower PendantHuge Vintage 18k Solid Gold Blue Topaz & Diamond Cocktail Ring 11.4gms 8cts! 750Rare Vintage Verified Juliana D & E Topaz Watermelon Rivoli Rhinestone BraceletSterling Silver Art Deco Flower Form Brooch Lavender Jade Topaz Marcasite No Res10k Deco Edwardian Ring,1920s, Ob, Ostby And Barton, Blue Topaz Glass , Sz. 7.5Fine Art Deco Design Heavy 18k Gold 3 Carat Blue Topaz & Diamond Cluster RingArt Deco Design 9ct Gold 2.00ct Real Pink Topaz Vintage Bow Drop Earrings Ariel Peridot Topaz Citrine Iolite Tourmaline Garnet Designer Ring 14k Yellow Estate 34.00ct Blue Topaz 18k Gold Heart Cocktail Ring 17.5 Grams NrVintage 14k Pear Shape Blue Topaz RingFine Art Deco Design 3 Carat Blue Topaz & Diamond Cluster Gold RingAntique Blue Glass? Topaz? Stone Ring Handmade Sterling Silver 925 Ring 6.75 N9ct Gold Vintage Blue Topaz Scroll Design Earrings Attractive Large Topaz & Diamond 9ct Gold Ladies Ring P0336Vintage Carved Topaz And Citrine 14k Yellow Gold Earrings 10.7 Grams 1-5/8" LongAntique Vintage Deco 14k Gold Blue Stone Topaz ? Lapel Brooch Pin Jewelry EstateStunning Pair Of 7.00 Carat Blue Topaz & 14 Ct Gold EarringsAmethyst Blue Topaz Citrine Peridot Garnet Ring White Gold Fine Jewelry Size 7Stunning Ladies Vintage 7 Blue Topaz Cocktail Ring 10k Yellow GoldRare Ornate Heavy French 18ct Gold & Large Topaz Vintage Ladies Ring Circa 1930Vintage Modernist Designer Silver Blue Topaz Link Cable Chain Pendant NecklaceVtg Gemstone Carnelian Citrine Topaz 14k Gold Carved Rose Ladies Necklace Nr EsmVintage 1.00ctw Fiery Opal & White Topaz 10k Yellow Gold Stud/dangle Earrings*incredible Vintage Trifari~amber Topaz Rhinestone Bracelet & Earrings~rare Set*Sterling Silver Vintage Handcrafted Stylish Smokey Topaz Ring Sz 7 Wonderful!Imperial Topaz Diamond Necklace Pendant 18k 14k Yellow Gold Baguette Trillion Lot Of 17 Genuine 925 Sterling Silver Vintage Earrings - Ruby, Topaz, Other$2,900 Mens 14k Yellow Gold 3ct Emerald Cut Blue Topaz Diamond Mans Ring 7.5gObedient! Turkish Topaz 925k Sterling Silver NecklaceEstate 10k Yellow Gold 1.50ct Blue Topaz Ring 1.7g Size 7.75 No ReserveFine Vintage 14k Yellow Gold Pale Blue Topaz & Diamond Ladies Cocktail Ring Vintage Taxco Mexico Sterling Silver 925 Blue Topaz Pendant Necklace 24 InchesDesigner Signed Necklace Choker, Bounkit, Smoky Topaz, White Steady! Turkish Ruby Topaz 925k Sterling Silver EarringsDelicious! Turkish Sapphire Topaz 925k Sterling Silver NecklaceVintage Antique 14k 14kt Gold Pink Topaz ? Charm Piece Part Pendant Jewelry Tasty! Turkish Ruby Topaz 925k Sterling Silver EarringsMysterious! Turkish Topaz 925k Sterling Silver EarringsVtg 1920's Elegant Art Deco Yellow Topaz Glass Pearl Sterling Filigree BraceletVintage Juliana D & E Topaz Green Orange Aurora Borealis Rhinestone BroochVintage Jewellery Stunning Large Sparkling Topaz Crystal Brooch PinEcho Of The Dreamer Sterling Silver Bronze Turquoise Peridot Topaz Pendant 15.9gBeautiful Pair Of Stamped 9ct Rose Gold 1930s Drop Earrings Set With Blue TopazElegant! Turkish Emerald Ruby Topaz 925k Sterling Silver NecklaceDetermined! Turkish Emerald Ruby Topaz 925k Sterling Silver NecklaceVintage Goldette Victorian 4 Strand Necklace Golden Topaz Intaglio Cameo LocketVintage 10k Solid Gold Heart Shaped Pink Topaz W/d Cocktail Ring One Cent Sale! Lucky! Turkish Ruby Topaz 925k Sterling Silver NecklaceFantastic! Turkish Emerald Ruby Topaz 925k Sterling Silver NecklaceCool! Turkish Ruby Sapphire Topaz 925k Sterling Silver NecklaceVintage Topaz/green Rhinestone Brooch Earrings Karu ArkeJuliana Ab & Ice Molded Glass Topaz Rhinestone Vintage PinRare Vintage Sterling Silver 925 Oval Blue Topaz Inlay Turquoise Lapis Ring Sz 7Vintage Solid 14k Gold Ring. 3 Topaz, Hermann Siersbol Made In DenmarkAntique Look Agate Druzy & Faceted Citrine Topaz- 925 Silver Necklace 18"as-2936Retro 14k Rose Gold/sterling 20ct Checkerboard Cut Blue Topaz Open Scroll RingEncouraging! Turkish Topaz Amethyst 925k Sterling Silver EarringsEager! Turkish Topaz Amethyst 925k Sterling Silver NecklaceBeautiful! Turkish Ruby Topaz 925k Sterling Silver NecklaceVintage 925 Sterling Silver Link Smokey Topaz Bracelet 7" (39.2g) - 454059