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If you’re on the hunt for an elegant and unique piece of jewelry, look no further than the gemstone topaz. With its varying colors and ability to reflect light and brilliance, topaz, the November birthstone, is a much sought-after stone utilized in a variety of different settings. When looking to purchase topaz jewelry be sure to do your research so you know your way around any pitfalls. This comprehensive shopping guide will help you begin the process.
What is Topaz?
The word topaz comes from the Sanskrit word for fire, Topaz, which is derived from the Sanskrit word tapas which means fire. The most valuable varieties of topaz are the warm colors – golden, yellow, orange, and red – which resemble the color of flames, hence the name. Topaz has been known as the golden gem and ancient people believed that the stone received its hue from the touch of the sun.
Topaz is formed in the cracks and crevices of igneous rocks such as pegmatite, rhyolite, and granite. Though Brazil has been named the primary source for topaz, it is also possible to find it in Sri Lanka, Nicaragua, Texas, and other various places worldwide. It was recently named the state gemstone of Utah due to its prevalence in the mountain ranges in that region.
Topaz comes in a range of hues, including multi-colored stones. Here are the most well-known topaz hues.
1. Colorless or White Topaz
Though the colors of topaz can vary greatly, colorless or milky white topaz is the most commonly found in nature.
White topaz is often used as a substitute for diamonds due to its brilliance and similarity in appearance and can be almost indistinguishable from diamonds. It is also popularly used as accent stones.
To find out more about the differences check out our article on white topaz vs diamonds.
2. Yellow Topaz
For centuries topaz was the quintessential yellow gemstone and people referred to any yellow gemstone as topaz. Since modern gemologists began to study topaz more specifically they realized that it comes in a variety of other hues.
Yellow topaz encompasses various hues of yellows and oranges. This color topaz is fairly easy to find and is relatively inexpensive.
3. Blue Topaz
Since the 2000s, blue topaz has been the second most popular gemstone in the world, coming in just behind sapphire. Because natural blue topaz is extremely rare and often pale in color, most of the vibrant blue topaz you see on the market has been heat treated and irradiated to achieve its color. As a result of this, blue topaz is abundantly found on the market.
There are many trade names used to categorize the varieties of blue topaz. These include:
- London Blue – which refers to a dark blue variety of topaz, often with hints of green.
- Sky Blue – this is a light blue color that is similar to aquamarine.
- Swiss Blue – which has a darker, sky blue color.
Most topaz jewelry on the market is blue and finding a quality piece of blue topaz jewelry is easily done.
4. Pink Topaz
Pink topaz, also known as rose topaz, is similar in appearance to a pink diamond or pink sapphire. Pink topaz makes for a good substitute for both these gemstones as it is an inexpensive option.
5. Champagne Topaz
Champagne topaz comes in varying shades of brown and is never chemically treated to achieve its ideal color. This is a naturally occurring shade of topaz and is easily found.
6. Imperial Topaz
This color of topaz ranges from light peach to shades of orange. Like champagne topaz, it is also naturally occurring. Imperial topaz is among the most expensive of topaz varieties.
7. Mystic Topaz
Mystic topaz is topaz that has been chemically treated to achieve a rainbow of colors. It is called mystic topaz because it will often times contain 3 or more colors on its surface giving it a magical, color-changing quality. This type of topaz ranges in price, but can often be quite expensive.
Something to keep in mind when deciding on a color for your topaz is the GIA color grading system. Colors consist of three main qualities.
- Hue – The basic hues of topaz are red, orange, yellow, blue, violet, green, and purple.
- Tone – Tone refers to a color’s lightness. This can be colorless (0) all the way to black (10).
- Saturation – This refers to a color’s intensity. From a dull gray or brown (1) to a vivid color (6).
Topaz can be cut into any gemstone shape. Because topaz is a brilliant stone, brilliant cuts such as round, princess, and modern cushion cut to suit the stone well. However, to bring out the clarity and the color of the stone, gemstone cuts with open facets such as the emerald and Asscher cuts are stunning.
Another unique way to highlight the beauty of topaz is to opt for a cabochon cut. Cabochon cut topaz is a beautiful way to bring out the transparency and vitreous sheen of the gemstone, as can be seen in this beautiful ring.
Topaz Carat Weight
Topaz is easy to find in large sizes, meaning that whether you have minimalist or maximalist tastes, you can find a topaz to suit. While topaz is a relatively inexpensive gemstone, large stones can command higher prices.
Choosing Topaz Jewelry
Because topaz is a durable gemstone, it works well in all types of jewelry.
As already mentioned, some of the most common topaz jewelry contains blue topaz. Blue topaz is commonly paired with silver-hued metals such as platinum and white gold, for a modern, chic look. However, pairing blue topaz with yellow or rose gold as seen in this ring brings a vintage and sophisticated appearance to your jewelry.
Topaz jewelry can be modern and stylish, with dressy dangle earrings, cocktail rings, and large statement pendants easily glamming up any outfit.
However, for more understated looks, topaz works well in small and delicate designs too.
For those born in November, topaz jewelry is a great gift idea. Blue Nile has a stunning range of topaz birthstone jewelry which you can check out here.
Many of our readers ask if topaz is a suitable gemstone for engagement rings. While it is a durable stone (Mohs 8), we hesitate to recommend topaz for engagement rings as it can chip and break on exposure. If it has been heat treated, colored topaz can fade with use, losing its vibrant color. An engagement ring is a piece of jewelry that most people plan on wearing on a daily basis and must be hard enough to withstand exposure. As such, topaz does not fit the bill. Having said that, a carefully set and maintained topaz engagement ring can last decades.
Topaz Treatments and Imitations
Topaz is commonly irradiated and heat treated to obtain desirable topaz colors, especially blue, yellow, red, pink, and green. These treatments are generally stable and permanent, but there is the likelihood of the color fading when directly exposed to sunlight.
It is common for less expensive substances to be passed off as topaz. These include glass, quartz, and other gemstones such as citrine. This is why it’s important to purchase from a reputable seller and to request information about your topaz prior to purchase.
Topaz has long been a symbol of love and affection. Many civilizations pair topaz with desire and passion perhaps due to its orange fiery color. It is often believed that wearing topaz can increase your overall cheerfulness and sweetness. Though the exact symbolism of topaz changes with the primary colors, its symbol of love and passion always remains.
Caring for Topaz
Cleaning your topaz is as simple as warm soapy water and a clean dry cloth. This removes the grime and dirt that accumulates on the surface of the stone, restoring its shine.
Due to the hardness of topaz, it is important to store it separately or inside a soft cloth. This will protect your other stones from being scratched by the topaz’s hard surface and also protect your topaz from being scratched by harder stones such as your diamonds or sapphires.
It is a good idea to remove your topaz before working out, applying makeup, or cleaning the house, as sweat, chemicals such as chlorine, ammonia, detergents, and other foreign dust and liquids can damage the quality of your stone.
Shopping for Topaz
When looking for topaz jewelry, it’s important to purchase from a trustworthy and established vendor with good after-sales policies. The vendor should disclose any treatments that the stone may have undergone and need to be upfront about these.
Blue Nile’s topaz jewelry collection consists of beautiful, dainty every day pieces as well as glamorous cocktail jewelry. Blue Nile is known for their integrity, reasonable prices, and high quality, making them a good choice. Also, check James Allen’s collection of fine topaz jewelry.
Amazon has a wide and stunning range of topaz jewelry to suit all budgets and styles but it is imperative that you vet the retailer and the product prior to purchase.