November Birthstone: Topaz "The Cooling Crystal"

November Birthstone: Topaz "The Cooling Crystal"

Characterized by a vast variety of hues, topaz is November birthstone. According to astrology, this colorful gemstone is associated with Scorpio zodiac sign. Due to its polyhedric sides, this rare stone is widely used in jewelry creations and, as it cools down when exposed to hot temperatures, the topaz is also known as the “cooling crystal”.

© Marquise-shaped blue topaz and diamond cuff bracelet decorated with pearls from “Merveilles des Océans” Collection by VITALE 1913.

The origin of the word “topaz” is still a matter of discussion today. Some people believe that the name originates from Sanskrit “tapus”, which means “fire”. According to other sources, it comes from Greek “Topazios” which is St John’s Island’s old name, where yellow stones, which were probably peridots or chrysolites, used to be mistaken for topazes. 

In the past, all yellow and orange stones were referred to as “topazes”, but this was often a source of confusion. Moreover, these rare gemstones were thought to come only in yellowish colors. As a consequence, topazes with different colors used to be misclassified as other types of gemstones. It is believed that the first “real” topaz was found in Germany in 1737.

Topaz is one of the most popular colored gems and it belongs to the so-called “hard stones” and it is rated 8 out of 10 on the Mohs hardness scale like aquamarines and spinels.

A polyhedric and colorful gem

Brazil and Pakistan are the two main countries where these marvelous stones are mined. Specifically, since the 1800s, Minas Gerais (a state in Brazil) has been an important producer of the finest topazes, which can come in yellow, orange, pink, red or violet. The most coveted pink topazes can be found in Pakistan, in particular in Katlang, a small town in Ghundao Hill.

November birthstones are also present in other countries such as the United States, Mexico, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nigeria, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Russia and China.

Ouro Preto Mine
© Mine in Ghundao Hill.

Topazes are known for their high level of clarity, which means that inclusions can only be seen under magnification. Thanks to their exceptional clarity and hardness, they can be cut into almost every shape. 

Unlike most people might think, these rare gemstones can come both colorless and in other colors such as yellow, orange, pink, violet, red, green, brown and blue, which is the most common color and it is treated most of the times because topazes with this color are extremely rare in nature. The finest topazes, and therefore the most expensive ones, are characterized by a color ranging from gold to pink with a hue of orange. They are also known as “Imperial topazes”.

We can identify five main varieties of this special gemstone:

  • Imperial: it is believed that the name comes from Russian Tsarinas, who elaborated laws to prevent non-royal people from owning or wearing topazes with the finest colors. Imperial topazes originated in the XIX century, when the Urals were the primary source of this topaz variety. According to other people, the name “Imperial” dates back to 1881, when Brazilian Emperor Pedro II was offered a reddish topaz during his visit to Ouro Preto, a city in the Minas Gerais state. 
  • Mystic: the multicolored effect is a consequence of a coating treatment. Indeed, when a white topaz pavilion is covered with a titanium layer, this unique appearance is created.
  • Azotic: likewise the mystic one, the color of this topaz variety is enhanced through human intervention. A metallic coating is put on the stone so that reflection will create a game of lights. 
  • White: ranging from colorless to white, this type of topaz can be used as an alternative to colorless diamonds and it is also known as “glacier topaz”.
  • Blue: according to its color intensity, the blue topaz can be divided into three categories: sky blue, Swiss blue and London blue. While the first one is more similar to aquamarine, the last one is characterized by a darker color. Thanks to its brilliant color, the Swiss blue topaz is very popular. 
© Topaz varieties.

Culture and beliefs

Topazes are said to have many magical powers. According to ancient cultures, for instance, these fascinating gemstones can cool water, increase body heat as well as grant longevity and intelligence. In Ancient Greece they were considered to be a symbol of strength, while in the XII century, Saint Hildegard used topazes to heal weak vision. The treatment consisted of putting November birthstones in wine for three days and then applying the wine to the eyes. From the XIV to the XVII centuries, European people believed topazes were able to break magic spells and to fight against anger. 

Topazes are also said to represent mental balance and to protect people from negative feelings, especially from avidity. 

Curious fact: according to an Italian physician of the XV century, a topaz owned by two Catholic popes was able to heal plague symptoms.

Topazes can help develop your self-esteem as well as promote self-relaxation, openness and honesty. Not by chance blue topazes are the traditional gifts for marriages: blue topazes for the 4th wedding anniversary and Imperial topazes for the 23rd wedding anniversary. 

Topaz earring vitale 1913
© Topaz earrings from the Merveilles des Océans Jewelry Collection by Vitale 1913

The most famous topaz jewelry pieces

The American Golden Topaz

This marvelous stone, which was found in Minas Gerais (Brazil), is the largest cut golden topaz. It was faceted for more than two years by Leon Agee in the 1980s. Today the American Golden Topaz weighs 22,892.5 carats (around 4.58 kg) and has 172 facets. Unlike other precious stones, it is possible to see it at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, D.C.

Its name combines its origin (a Brazilian golden topaz) with the country where it is displayed.

American Golden Topaz
© The American Golden Topaz

The Golden Topaz Sphere

The Golden Topaz Sphere has some characteristics in common with the American Golden Topaz: its origin and its color. These two amazing gemstones are exhibited in the same display cabinet at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The Sphere, which is characterized by exceptional clarity, cut and color, has a weight of 12,555 carats (around 2.51 kg).

The Golden Topaz Sphere

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