December Birthstone of the Month- Blue Topaz
Posted on December 06 2017
Topaz is the birthstone for the month of December, and the stone given in celebration of the 4th and 19th anniversaries of marriage. Topaz is a symbol of love and affection, and has been said to be an aid to ones sweetness and disposition.
Topaz gets its name from the Greek word topazion, which may originate from the Sanskrit tapas, meaning, “fire.” The name might also come from the name of the Egyptian island of topazos (now St Johns island) in the Red Sea. The Latin writer Pliny the Elder used the island’s name for a yellowish green stone found there, and it soon became the name for most yellow stones. Topaz was once predominantly found there but is now also found in Brazil, Nigeria, Australia, Burma, and Mexico.
The Greeks and Romans greatly valued topaz as a gemstone. In medieval times, small wine-yellow Saxonian topaz was mined at Schneckenstein in the Erzgebirge Mountains in Saxony Germany, and several rulers wore these specimens in jewelry. Deep mining was later used at the site from 1737 to 1800. Topaz was always a prized and rare stone from the time of the middle Ages until discoveries of large deposits in Brazil in the mid 19th century. Nowadays it is much more popular and very affordable.
In 1740, the “Braganza” diamond (1,640 carats) was found in Ouro Preto, Brazil. It was set in the Portugese crown, and was thought to be the largest diamond ever found. The fact that it was a diamond was never confirmed, and it is now believed to have been a colorless topaz.
Topaz was one of the stones selected by Aaron for his priestly breastplate. He placed it on there as the second stone in the first row of stones. Topaz is also found as one of the stones in Revelation and is one of the stones of the apocalypse. In Egyptian practices, it is the symbol of Ra, the Sun god, who was the giver of life. In Europe, topaz became strongly linked with Apollo, who is also a solar being.
The majority of topaz is colorless and is called topaz. The next most abundant color of topaz is blue and green. The most frequently seen stones in jewelry are the shades yellow or sherry brown, and pink. Clear, pink, blue and honey-yellow varieties of topaz are especially valued. The most sought after and expensive colors are called “imperial topaz.” In the past, it was thought that all yellow gems were topaz and that all topaz was yellow. We now know topaz varies in color from pale blue and colorless, to yellow, orange, brown and pink. The pink stones so popular in Victorian jewelry were produced by heat-treating golden-brown topaz from Brazil.
Topaz has become very popular over the years. Most of the topaz on the market is treated. Unfortunately there is no way yet to determine which stones have been treated and which are natural. Although topaz has not been manufactured synthetically on a commercial scale, a completely natural looking blue coloration has been produced in colorless topaz by means of irradiation with gamma rays. This practice is regarded as legitimate in the trade, and is becoming increasingly widespread. It is one of the reasons for the present abundance of topaz in the trade.
Topaz closely resembles the finest aquamarine, and offers a very attractive and more affordable alternative to aquamarine. Some of the finer deeper topaz stones have been found to be radioactive. In the US, all topaz must be tested for radiation levels, as according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a highly radioactive stone may be injurious to the wearer. The Gemological Institute of America now provides radiation testing to the jewelry trader. Be careful if you are buying topaz outside of the US- if you do, it may be wise to have it tested when you come home.