Topaz, November’s primary birthstone, has one of the most confusing histories of any popular gem. Though topaz has been known since antiquity, it is often confused with citrine, the alternative November birthstone.
Both topaz and citrine were found on an island in the Mediterranean called Topazios in ancient times. Because the two gems were alike in color, though not in size or form, they were often mixed up. The most common topaz colors are brown, yellow, yellow-gold, and orange, all very similar to the shades of citrine.
- COLOR:Yellow, orange, brown, pink to red to purple red, blue , light green and colorless
- REFRACTIVE INDEX:619 to 1.627
- BIREFRINGENCE:008 to 0.010
- SPECIFIC GRAVITY:53
- MOHS HARDNESS:8
Topaz is alleged to increase understanding, strengthen breathing, prevent colds, enhance creativity, bring relaxation, control angry passions, restore energy, and aid in tissue regeneration. Citrines were thought to protect against the venom of evil words and thoughts.
Topaz was often used to promote wisdom in its wearer, which may explain the medieval custom of giving topaz rings to heads of state, diplomats, and royalty.
Topaz is primarily brown, but also can be found in various tones and saturations of blue, green, yellow, orange, red, pink, and purple, and colorless. Topaz is also pleochroic, meaning that the gem can show different colors in different crystal directions. Orange, reds and pinks are the rarest topaz colors, and the light green, purple-red, and colorless varieties of topaz are easily mistaken for other gemstones.
Don’t confuse topaz with “topaz quartz” and “smoky topaz.” When yellow citrine quartz was first discovered, miners called it “topaz quartz.” Topaz is usually more valuable than citrine in a similar color and also occurs in more saturated tones. Sometimes brown quartz is mistakenly called “smoky topaz.”
Faceted blue topaz is almost always free of eye visible inclusions. Other more rare colors like imperial and pink may show inclusions more often but are rare so the inclusions are more acceptable than in other colors of Topaz.
Topaz is cut in a wide variety of shapes and cutting styles, which is one of the most important factors in appearance. Production includes all the standard gem shapes such as ovals, pears, rounds, emerald cuts, cushion cuts, triangle cuts, and marquise shapes, as well as designer-inspired fantasy shapes. Topaz crystals are usually columnar, and cut as oval or pear shapes to improve yield.
Because of cleavage, extreme pressure or sharp temperature changes might cause topaz to break.
Topaz can be delicate and requires special care to avoid breaking under rough wear. Look for jewelry with mountings that protect the topaz, so that it’s less likely to break if dropped or hit. Earrings, pins, bangle bracelets and pendants are safer for daily wear than rings or flexible bracelets.
CARE AND CLEANING
Warm soapy water is always safe.
Topaz coated to improve color must only be cleaned with mild soapy water.
(GIA Gem Encyclopedia Topaz) (Jewelry Information Center)