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    

Estate Diamond 14.83ct Tourmaline Topaz 18k Gold Necklace 57.7 Grams NrArt Deco Vtg Antique 14k White Gold London Blue Topaz Diamond Ring Sz 6Antique English 9k Gold Snake Figural Blue Sapphire Topaz Stone Watch Fob SealEstate 10k Yellow Gold 13.00 Ct Natural Rough Cut Blue Sapphire And Topaz Ring Very Fine Large C1800 Georgian Gold Smoky Topaz Pocket Watch Chain Fob Seal**estate 14k Yellow Gold Blue Topaz 12pt Diamond Earrings H-i Si2 12.8 GramsEstate 14k Yellow Gold Natural Amethyst, Peridot, Topaz Flower Bracelet 6.00 CtsSensational Huge C1900 Antique 12k Gold Gf Jewelled Topaz Paste Photo Locket14k Gold Multi Gemstone Garnet Citrine Amethyst Topaz Vintage Tennis BraceletHuge Emerald Cut 20+ Ct. Finest London Blue Topaz 14k White Gold Ring~17.2 GramsEstate 7.96ctw Swiss Blue Topaz Diamond 14k White Gold Multi Chain NecklaceBlack Hills Gold By Coleman C.co. Music Clef Note Smokey Topaz Ring Size 9.25 NrLagos White Topaz Sterling Silver Ladies Earrings Estate Designer !!!Estate 10k White Gold Trillion Cut Pink Topaz & Diamond Ladies Ring 2.1gAntique Vintage Nouveau 18k Bi Gold 5.86 Ct Blue Topaz Filigree Ring Sz 8.25Rare! Huge D&e Juliana Sparkling Topaz Rhinestones Cello Brooch Pin Earring SetEstate $1200 2ct Natural Blue Topaz Diamond 14k Yellow Gold Band Ring10ct/ 10k White Gold Diamond & Blue Topaz Stud Earrings.Dainty, Elegant, Art Deco 9 Ct Gold Trembleuses Earrings/blue/white Topaz GemsAn Exquisite Antique Georgian Gold Bullion Braided Topaz Drop NecklaceFine Blue Topaz And Diamond Art Deco Design 9ct Gold Earrings 9k 375Fine Amethyst Blue Topaz 9ct Gold Dangly Chandelier Drop Earrings 9k 375Vintage 10k Gold And 8x6mm Emerald Cut Blue Topaz Ring Size 6.5 Not ScrapEstate 14k Yellow Gold, Blue Topaz Ring Size 7.5, No ReserveGorgeous,vintage,deco Style Sterling Silver Collar Necklace/blue Moonstone/topazOutstanding Juliana/d&e Topaz & Ab Rs & Rootbeer 'striped' Art Glass NecklaceEstate 14k Yellow Gold Natural Red Garnet, Blue Topaz And Diamond Ring 2.80 CtsDesigner Judith Ripka Sterling Silver Link Toggle Bracelet W/ Yellow Topaz HeartVtg Edwardian Revival Deco Topaz Blue Crystal Rhinestone Pendant Necklace D38Estate $1400 14k Yellow Gold Natural Swiss Blue Topaz And Diamond Ring 3.00 CtsVintage Signed Crown Trifari Smokey Topaz Rhinestone Butterfly Brooch PinD&e Juliana Topaz & Ab Watermelon Stone Rhinestone Owl Brooch Pin Two 9ct/ 9k White Gold Diamond & Topaz Pendants, 3759ct/ 9k Gold Diamond & Blue Topaz Art Deco Pendant On Chain, 375Estate 10k Yellow Gold Natural Oval Blue Topaz And Diamond Earrings 2.30 Cts**estate 14k White Gold 30 Pts Diamond Topaz Ring I-j Si2 7.7 Grams Size 6.75Vtg Signed Eisenberg Ice Topaz Yellow Flower Rhinestone Brooch Earring Set D130Estate 14k Yellow Gold 4.00ctw Natural Blue Topaz & Diamond Ladies Ring 3.1gVtg Kenneth J Lane Kjl Mogul Topaz Crystal Lizard Alligator Cuff Runway BraceletVintage D&e Juliana Ab Topaz Crystal Rhinestone Flower Brooch Pin Earrings Set10k/ & 9k White Gold Baguette Cut Diamond & Blue Topaz Art Deco, 375Vintage Pink/topaz/green Rhinestone Brooch 3 1/2"Delicate, Vintage, Sterling Silver Pandora Briolette Earrings With Blue TopazVtg Edwardian Deco Revival Topaz Blue Crystal Pedant Necklace Silver Tone D88Antique Gold Filled Topaz Spinner Fob Watch Chain PendantUnique 10k Yellow Gold Peacock Mystic Topaz & Diamond Ring-size 6.75~ 3.3 GramsModern Solid 925 Sterling Silver Larimar, Blue & White Topaz Cuff Bracelet J Bi9ct/ 9k Gold Blue Topaz Ring, 375Estate 14k Yellow Gold 2ctw Natural Blue Topaz Stud Ladies Earrings 1.2gSilver Diamond Topaz RingVtg 14k Solid Yellow Gold Blue 2.8 Ct Tw Blue Topaz & Diamond Ring Size 5 Wed NrEstate 2.60ct Oval Cut Ruby & White Topaz Halo Ring 18k Yellow Gold $2400Estate 10k Yellow Gold 1.00 Ct Natural Oval Blue Topaz And Diamond RingLadies 10k Yellow Gold Heart Cut Blue Topaz & Diamond Estate Ring No Reserve!Beautiful Estate 10k Yellow Gold Blue Topaz & Diamond Ring Retail $650Estate Diamond 4.09ct Blue Topaz 14k Gold Drop Earrings NrVintage D&e Juliana Book Piece Colorado Topaz Owl Brooch Stunning!Vintage Crystal Creations Formart Topaz Swarorvski Crystal Kitty Cat Brooch PinVintage Sterling Silver 14k Gf - Art Deco White Topaz Engagement 2g - Ring (6)Vintage Designer David Yurman 14k Gold Sterling Silver Blue Topaz Noblesse Ring