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 Green Topaz 14k Gold Russian RingBarbara Bixby Amethyst White Topaz 18kt Yellow Gold Sterling Shangri La Ring 12gStunning 14k White Gold Pendant/enhancer W/ 14.21 Ctw Mystic Topaz & Dia. #r34Heavy! Vintage 14k Yellow Gold Ring With 4.30 Ctw Fancy Topaz And Diamonds! #t88Barbara Bixby London Blue Topaz Diamond 18kt Yellow Gold Sterling Silver RingVintage Ladies 14k Yellow Ring W/6.82 Ctw Topaz & Diamonds! Size: 5.5 #b13Rare 100% Natural 4.50ctw Imperial Red Topaz Diamond 14k Gold Cocktail RingVintage 18k Yelow Gold And Huge Smokey Topaz RingEstate 1.42ct Amethyst Topaz Diamond 14k Gold Band Ring NrGorgeous 14k Yellow Gold Pendant W/ 18.82 Ctw London Blue Topaz & Diamonds! G26Judith Ripka Diamond Blue Topaz 18k Gold Sterling Silver Drop Dangle Earrings NrVtg Art Deco Sterling Silver 925 Marcasite Blue Topaz Earrings + Paste Ring SEstate Diamond 5.25ct Amethyst Aquamarine Topaz 14k Gold Bracelet 18.4 Grams NrVintage Hm Sterling Silver / Topaz Celtic Brooch Malcolm Gray Ortak Orkney 1986 Sterling Silver Vintage Handcrafted Blue Topaz Pendant Beautiful Gem!!Strong! Turkish Topaz Amethyst 925k Sterling Silver EarringsGorgeous Vintage 10k Solid Gold London Blue Topaz & Diamond Ring Scrap/use 4.55gHigh Quality Turkish Emerald Ruby Topaz 925k Sterling Silver Bangle Md-3262Fantastic Antique 14k Solid Yellow Gold Large Yellow Topaz Cocktail Ring Us 6.75Antique Vintage Estate Sterling Silver Art Deco Topaz Or Sapphire Gemstone RingStunning 9ct Solid Yellow Gold 5.2 Carat White Topaz & Diamond RingVintage Sherman Topaz Aurora Borealis Dome Swirl Brooch.......10k Yellow Gold Vintage Ladies Yellow Topaz, Yellow Sapphire, And Diamond RingHigh Quality Turkish Ruby Emerald Topaz 925k Sterling Silver Bangle Md-3217Genuine Huge Citrine And White Topaz Vintage Sterling Silver Size 6.75 RingEstate Retro 14k Rose Gold & Sterling 15ct Natural Pink Topaz & Ruby Ring 8.4g10.50ct London Blue Topaz Aquamarine Topaz 18k Gold Slide Pendant NrNicky Butler Amethyst Peridot Citrine Smoky Topaz Sterling Silver 18" Necklace1 Ct Blue Topaz Solitaire Pendant 14k Yellow Gold Estate Vintage Round CutGorgeous 18k White Gold 'butterfly' Pendant W/ 4.25 Ctw Topaz And Gemstone! #r16Vintage John Hardy 18k Yellow Gold & Sterling Silver Blue Topaz NecklaceEstate Retro 14k Rose Gold & Sterling 15ct Natural Blue Topaz & Ruby Ring Vintage Irish 9ct 9k Gold Celtic Trinity Cross Topaz Pendant Not Scrap 2.4 Gram Vintage Estate Sterling Silver Genuine Smokey Topaz Filigree Ring Nr 925 Vintage 7mm Tahitian Pearl, Chocolate & White Topaz Rose Sterling Silver Ring 5gVintage 925 Sterling Silver Antique Genuine Blue Sapphire & White Topaz Ring 6gAntique Solid 18ct Gold Platinum Victorian Diamond Topaz Ladies Ring Size MVictorian 14k/925 Sterling 4.72ctw Rose Cut Diamonds & Swiss Blue Topaz RingHigh Quality Turkish Ruby Emerald Topaz 925k Sterling Silver Bangle Md-3318Gorgeous! Turkish Ruby Sapphire Topaz 925k Sterling Silver NecklaceVintage!!!! 3.50 Cts Star Sapphire & White Topaz Ring Solid 925ss Size#7.5 NrColorful Estate Mystic Topaz Diamond & Garnet 10k Solid Gold Ring Not Scrap S7Antique Larimar & Faceted London Blue Topaz - 925 Silver Handmade Necklace 18"D&e Juliana Shimmering Gold Filigree Ab Topaz Rhinestone Brooch Pin Earrings SetStrong! Turkish Topaz Amethyst 925k Sterling Silver PendantVintage Necklace Pendant Bib Topaz Amber Rhinestone Cluster Autumn Wow! 4166Amber Topaz Glass Bead 7 Strand Signed Coppoloa E Toppo Necklace Beaded ClaspHigh Quality Turkish Ruby Emerald Topaz 925k Sterling Silver Pendant Md-3233High Quality Turkish Blue Druzy Topaz 925k Sterling Silver Earring Md-3370High Quality Turkish Blue Druzy Topaz 925k Sterling Silver Earring Md-3327Estate Retro 14k Rose Gold & Sterling 15ct Natural Blue Topaz & Ruby Ring Vintage Necklace Topaz Brown Rhinestone Smoke Gray Fringe Pendant Cluster 3251Stunning Quality Pair Of Filigree 9ct Solid Gold & White Topaz EarringsCourageous! Turkish Emerald Ruby Topaz 925k Sterling Silver NecklaceHigh Quality Turkish Ruby Topaz 925k Sterling Silver Bracelet Size 21cm/md-323265 Grams! Turkish Ruby Sapphire Topaz 925k Sterling Silver NecklaceGentle! Turkish Topaz 925k Sterling Silver EarringsSteady! Turkish Emerald Topaz 925k Sterling Silver EarringsGorgeous Gold Filled 12ctw Natural Blue Topaz Hinged Bangle Bracelet 21.3gSajen Moonstone Pink Topaz Beaded Scroll Dangle Hook Sterling Silver Earrings