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    

Fine Art Deco Design Emerald Cut 7ct Pink Topaz And Diamond 18ct Gold Ring 750Vintage Platinum Beautiful 4.50ct Diamond/ruby/sapphire/topaz Charm Bracelet9ct/ 9k White Gold Diamond & Blue Topaz Art Deco Design Ring, 375Italian 11.50ct Blue Topaz 14k Yellow Gold Bracelet Bangle 23.5 Grams Nr9ct/ 9k Gold Diamond & 3ct Blue Topaz Designer Ring, Stj, 375A Superb Large 40.00 Cts Deep Blue Topaz 9ct White Gold BraceletDiamond 19.02ct Blue Topaz 18k Gold Wide Wire Bangle Bracelet 32.2 Grams NrFine Blue Pear Drop Topaz 18ct Gold Earrings 18k 750 **estate 10k White Gold Blue Topaz Ring 15x19.8mm 10.8 Grams Size 5.75 Estate $3200 18k Yellow Gold Cultured Pearl, Diamond And Carved Blue Topaz RingErte Signed Natural 3.30ctw Blue Topaz And Diamond 14k Yellow Gold Alouette RingVintage Estate Natural 3.0ctw Imperial Topaz And Diamond 18k White Gold Ring10k Solid Gold Top Quality Vintage Yellow Topaz & Diamond Ring Sz 7 Rare FindEstate 13.04ct Natural London Blue Topaz And Diamond Ring In14k Solid White GoldTaxco Sterling Silver Vintage 925 Heavy Bangle Topaz Bracelet 6.5" 54.4g 520273** High Quality 18k Yellow Gold Blue Topaz Diamond Ring 24pts G-h Vs2 11x16mm18ct/ 18k White Gold Diamond & Topaz Cluster Designer Pendant On Chain, 750Antique Georgian Or Victorian 9k Gold Topaz & Crystal Paste BroochDesigner Vintage Natural 2.34ctw Pink Sapphire Topaz 14k Rose Gold Flower RingA Beautiful Vintage Solid Silver Moonstone & Blue Topaz Silver Bracelet10k Solid Gold Top Quality Vintage Black Hills Natural Blue Topaz Ring Sz 5.75Vintage Huge 14k Yellow Gold Radiant Smoky Topaz Solitaire Cocktail Ring 6.9gVintage 375 9k 9ct Gold Blue Topaz & Diamond Engagement Ring Size PEma Solid 14kt Yellow Gold Estate 1.5 Ct Topaz & Diamond Ring 3.4 Not ScrapBeautiful Art Deco 10k Gold Topaz Ring-size 7-2.8 Grams-estate-nrAntique Victorian 10k Y Gold Natural 2ct Garnet & .20ctw White Topaz Ring 3.2gVintage Juliana D&e Topaz And Aurora Borealis Rhinestone Bracelet - Book PieceAntique 10k Yellow Gold 2ct Natural Emerald Cut Amethyst & White Topaz Ring 2.7gVery Nice Estate 14k Yellow Gold Blue Topaz Hoop Earrings Retail $675Estate 14k Gold Ring 3 Diamonds, Amethyst, Blue Topaz 3.26g Sz 8 See DescriptionEstate Diamond 2.40ct Blue Topaz 14k Gold Enamel Dome Ring 15.4 Grams NrFantastic Art Deco 14k Solid Gold 10ct Blue Topaz Gemstone Ring Scrap/use 4.1g Pristine 14k Yel Gold Natural 7ctw Oval Cut Blue Topaz Tennis Bracelet 7.25"l 14k Solid Gold Large Top Quality Vintage Natural Blue Topaz Ring Sz 7.5 AwesomeEstate Blue Topaz 14k Yellow Gold Link Bracelet 9.9 Grams Nr8.50 Ctw Estate Natural London Blue Topaz And Diamonds In 14k White Gold RingDesigner Signed Strell 18k Gold & Topaz Vintage Estate Ring**estate 14k Yellow Gold Amethyst Topaz Peridot Ring 2.9 Grams Size 7.25Vtg Juliana Topaz Orange Crystal Flower Cluster Bracelet 1 Rhinestone Missing W6Estate $1200 10k Yellow Gold Natural Amethyst, Topaz, Peridot Earrings 2.85 CtsAntique Victorian 1.5ct Natural Pink Topaz Solitaire 10k Yellow Gold Ring 1.8gStunning Art Deco Design Emerald Cut Blue Topaz & Diamond 9 Ct Gold RingEstate 3 Tcw Beautiful Oval Blue Topaz 14k White Gold Stud Earrings ♤♡ Stunning Vintage Art-deco Sterling Silver Ladies Large Topaz Ring Size P1/2♤♡A Stunning Large 25.00 Cts Blue Topaz Silver Line BraceletExclusive 18k Natural Diamond Blue Topaz Ruby Emerald Vintage Earrings Pair NrEstate Sterling Silver Large London Blue Topaz Dark And Light Link Bracelet See!Estate Diamond 2.52ct Blue Topaz Tourmaline 14k Gold Floral Ring 5.5 Grams NrVtg Gerard Yosca Glass Jeweled Aquamarine Topaz Maltese Cross Couture Brooch PinEstate Diamond 1.52ct Bue Topaz Sapphire Tsavorite 14k Gold Band Ring NrGorgeous 18k Natural Full Diamond Swiss Blue Topaz Oval Cut Substantial BraceletD&e Juliana Olive Green Stone Topaz Rhinestone Cross Brooch Pin Pendant Book PcVintage Estate 14k Yellow Gold Oval Topaz Solitaire Diamond Accents Ring Size 6Beautiful Vintage 10k Gold & Blue Topaz Ring-size 6.5-2 Grams-estate-nrNyjewel 10k Solid Gold Two Tone Nice Lovely Leaves Topaz RingMars & Valentine Sterling Silver Blue Topaz W/ Pearl Rare Handmade Designer RingFantastic Vintage 14k Solid Gold 10+ct Smokey Topaz Gemstone Ring No Scrap 8g Estate Diamond 3.55ct Blue Topaz 9k Yellow Gold Ring 6.3 Grams Nr14k White Gold London Blue & White Topaz Flower Form Cocktail Ring Size 6.5 NoreFabulous Vintage 10k Solid Gold 5+ Ct Honey Topaz Gemstone Ring Scrap/use 6.16g