Topaz: The Birthstone from the Sun

filigree cross pendant, topaz, birthstoneThose born in November are especially lucky as they have two birthstones to choose from: the topaz and the citrine.  Both stones share a warm, yellow/orange color, perfectly fitting the month of November.

This week, we’re looking at the brilliant topaz and its array of colors.  Next week, we’ll be sharing the history of the fiery citrine.

Celebrating a November birthday or anniversary or do you just love the saturated colors of citrine and topaz? Gallery Byzantium offers select pieces set with topaz.

See another piece you that you love but would like set with a topaz or citrine? Give us a call at 800-798-6173 or e-mail us at info@gallerybyzantium and we’d be happy to customize one of our pieces for you!

Colored by the Sun

Topaz Ring. Rome, ca 1st century B.C.–3rd century A.D. Beryl, yellow, or Topaz. Via

The November birthstone and suggested 23rd anniversary gift, the topaz is a varied gemstone (much like the October opal and tourmaline).  Its name likely derives from “Topazios,” the ancient Greek name for St. John’s island where many yellow gemstones were mined.  Throughout most of its history, any yellow gem was called topaz (and all topaz was believed to be yellow).   It is thus likely that the gems mined on the island were not actually topaz.

Other sources point to the Sanskrit word “topas” or “tapaz,” meaning “fire,” to be the origin of the word “topaz.”  In either case, the color of the stone certainly influenced its name.  It’s interesting to note that it wasn’t until the 20th century that topaz was found to occur in the rainbow of different colors we are now familiar with.

Despite its colorful presence, pure topaz is actually colorless.  The Egyptians believed that the gemstone absorbed its color from the golden rays of the sun, however topaz is actually colored by impurities in the stone which allow chromium and iron to tint it various shades.

“The ancient Greeks believed that topaz gave them strength. For centuries, many people in India have believed that topaz worn above the heart assures long life, beauty, and intelligence.”

“Blue [topaz], once the most rare color of topaz, is today the most common, thanks to [modern technology and] a stable enhancement process that turns colorless topaz blue.”  The most coveted topaz is “imperial topaz,” with its yellow, pink, and reddish tones.  This variety was prized by the Russian imperial family (from where its name derives) in the 18th and 19th centuries and was worn exclusively by the Russian czarinas.  The rarest topaz, however, is either deep red or violet in color.

Sample of topaz color variety. Via

Wearing Topaz

Topaz measures 8 on the Mohs scale, making it a hard and durable gem, perfect for wear.  Like diamond, however, “it can be split with a single sharp blow” so it is recommended that you protect your topaz jewelry from hard knocks and nicks.

A versatile gemstone, topaz can be cut into a variety of shapes and designs.  It is either cut faceted or cabochon and it is recommended to have your topaz bezel set (rather than with prongs).

“To clean your topaz, simply use soapy water and a soft cloth. Be sure to rinse well to remove soapy residue. As with most gemstones, ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended.” 

Main image: Hair accessory. France, ca 1830. Silver gilt, topaz. Via
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