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    

Stunning Pair Of Victorian Style Blue Topaz Gold Drop EarringsFine Art Deco Design Topaz And Diamond Gold RingVintage 9ct Solid Rose Gold Topaz Ring Size N-1/2, Us 7.5Antique Victorian Two-tone 10k Gold Buckle Shank Onyx & Topaz Mourning Ring 4.8gFine 3 Carat Pink Sapphire And White Topaz Gold RingDiamond 8.39ct Pink Sapphire Smokey Topaz 14k Gold Flower Pin 8.6 Grams NrStunning Art Deco Design Green Topaz & Diamond Gold RingVintage Ring Rare 5.34ctw London Blue Topaz & Diamond 10k White Gold EstateVintage Rare Signed Coro Craft Duette Owls Topaz Fur Pin Clip Brooch Sterling!!!Estate Diamond 16.42ct Smokey Topaz 18k Gold Ring 9.2 Grams NrEstate Diamond 6.40ct Blue Topaz 14k Gold 7.3 Grams NrVintage Estate Ladies Large 14k Yellow Gold Chocolate Smoky Topaz Ring 6.5 Vintage Sterling Silver - Signed Or Oval-cut Blue Topaz 9.3g - Ring (4.75) Aq114Modern 20.38ct Diamond Blue Topaz 14k Gold Pendant 9.2 Grams Nr14k Solid Gold Vintage Teal Topaz & Diamond Ring Sz 7 Awesome GemstoneKria Gioielli 10.5mm Solid 18k Gold & Blue Topaz Chain Necklace, 105.7 Grams!Vintage Natural Untreated 5.0ctw Round Blue Topaz 14k Gold Large Stud Earrings 72 Grams Sweet! Turkish Emerald Ruby Topaz 925k Sterling Silver Necklace3 Ct Blue Topaz Stud Earrings 14k Yellow Gold Vivid Emerald Cut Natural EstateRare Vintage 3ct Trillion Cut London Magic Blue Topaz Colour Change Gold RingVintage Sterling Silver - Purple Turquoise & Blue Topaz 4g - Stud Earrings Gn234Estate Sterling Silver Genuine Blue Topaz Gemstone Filigree Ring Nr Sz 7 1/2Stunning Art Deco Design Blue Topaz And Diamond Gold Ring Tasty! Turkish Emerald Ruby Topaz 925k Sterling Silver NecklaceVintage Carol Felley Southwestern Sterling Silver Topaz 3d Horses Drop NecklaceCuff Bracelet .925 Sterling Silver And 14k Gold Bezel Onyx And Blue Topaz Amused! Turkish Topaz Amethyst 925k Sterling Silver EarringsGorgeous Solid 14k Gold & Faceted Blue Topaz Bead Dangle, Lever Back EarringsVintage Estate Sterling Silver Genuine Blue Topaz Gemstone Ring Nr Sz 6 1/210k Solid White Gold Antique Alexandrite & White Topaz Ring Sz 7.75 SpectacularVintage 14k Gold Round Blue Topaz Ring Basketweave Design Sz 6.25 Nr!!!!!!!!!!!!Heavy! Stunning 14k Yellow Gold Ring With 14.60 Ctw Topaz! Size: 102.50 Ct Blue Topaz & Diamond Pendant 14k Yellow Gold Natural Vivid Emerald Cut Friendly! Turkish Ruby Sapphire Topaz 925k Sterling Silver NecklaceLori Bonn Blue Topaz Pearl Anchor Star Filigree Sterling Silver Toggle BraceletGorgeous Retro Solid 14k White Gold, 2.0 Carats Blue Topaz & Diamond Estate RingEstate Sterling Silver White Topaz Gemstone Ring 925 Size 7 1/4 No ReserveA Vintage Solid 9ct Gold Natural Blue Topaz Cluster Ring Size P (us 7.75)Pretty Pair 9ct Gold & Orange Topaz Pendant Earrings14 Carat Gold & Blue Topaz Earrings No ReserveVintage Necklace Bib Topaz Glass Rhinestone Flower Gold Tone Fringe Dangle! 363Vintage Sterling Silver - Blue Topaz & Marcasite 8.6g - Pendant Gu912Vintage Sterling Silver - Oval-cut Blue Topaz 2.4g - Dangle Earrings Gw140 Sharp! Turkish Emerald Ruby Topaz 925k Sterling Silver Pendant Brave! Turkish Emerald Ruby Topaz 925k Sterling Silver EarringsVintage Sterling Silver - Oval Cut Blue Topaz 6.1g - Ring (7) Gn626Vintage Sterling Silver - Princess Cut Blue Topaz 6g - Ring (9) Gr732Vintage David Yurman Silver Cable Blue Cushion Topaz Full Cut Diamond Ring Sz 6Vintage 9k Yellow Gold Burgundy Topaz Cut Out Puffy Flower Ring 710k Solid Gold Antique Multi Gem Mothers Ring Sz 7.75 Ruby Blue Topaz SapphireVintage Sterling Silver - Emerald-cut Blue Topaz 8.8g - Ring (7.25) Vl559Fine Art Deco Design Topaz And Diamond 14ct Gold RingEstate Sterling Silver Genuine White Topaz Gemstone Ring 925 Sz6 3/4 No Reserve14k Solid Gold Vintage Multi Gem Ring Sz 7.25 Amethyst Topaz Garnet & MoreEstate Sterling Silver Genuine Blue Topaz Gemstone Filigree Ring Nr Sz 6 3/410k Solid Gold Vintage Blue Topaz Heart Claddagh Ring Sz 6.25 Keepsake!10k Solid Gold Vintage Mystic Topaz & Diamond Ring Sz 10.5 Awesome GemstoneStunningteal Topaz Rhinestone Large Art Glass Stone Spray Brooch Pin Regency ? Faithful! Turkish Ruby Sapphire Topaz 925k Sterling Silver EarringsTopaz Colored Small Turtle Brooch Juliana?