A Guide to Topaz

Topaz is one of the most widespread of precious gemstones, occurring naturally in many nations across the face of the earth. They have been valued throughout history, but have often been confused with other precious gemstones.

The name “Topaz”, derives from the Greek Τοπάζιος (Τοpáziοs), which was the ancient name for what is now St John’s Island, located in the Red Sea. This island was supposedly the first place that Topaz was mined, however we now know that this stone was more likely to be Chrysolite, a yellow variant of Olivine, the same mineral that gives us the pale green stone Peridot.

Before the advent of modern chemistry the name Topaz was often applied to any yellow precious stone, which led to it being confused with the slightly less valuable stone Citrine, or even the substantially more valuable yellow sapphire. One factor that allowed early gemmologists to detect the difference was the higher density of topaz, which means that it is heavier than other stones of the same size.

Although topaz is a hard stone it must be treated with greater care than similarly hard stones such as corundum (the mineral which gives us Sapphire and Rubies). This is because the gemstone’s atomic structure makes it prone to fracture catastrophically when struck.

An Array of Colours

Although topaz was historically defined by its golden yellow colour the more sophisticated techniques employed by modern gemmologists have revealed that the stone can come in a variety of different colours. Like most precious gemstones the colour is determined by the presence of trace amounts of different substances which were present when the crystals began to form deep within the earth.

Natural topaz is most often golden brown or yellow, but heat treatment or irradiation can be employed to either change the colour or intensify it. Blue topaz is quite rare in nature, but colourless topaz can be encouraged to take on the colour when heated, and it can be intensified further with radiation treatment.

Over the centuries many variants of topaz have been found; red, grey, green and opaque or completely clear stones have been discovered, but the most rare and valuable is known as “Imperial Topaz” or “Precious Topaz”, which ranges from a warm orange to a deep rose pink.

Although the size, and therefore the carat weight, of individual topaz stones affects their value it is the colour which is most important when determining the stone’s relative worth. Pink and red topaz, particularly those with extremely vibrant hues, are the most highly valued.

Topaz Jewellery

Yellow Topaz Diamond Ring

The best quality topaz stones make excellent centrepieces for jewellery. The vibrant hues can be every bit as magnificent a similarly proportioned sapphire, ruby or emerald. In the example pictured above a spectacular golden stone has been ringed with diamonds in a fine gold gallery. This allows the scintillation effect that the diamonds possess to augment the light flowing across the coloured stone. As with so many pieces of jewellery it is the combination of these different kinds of beauty that make it so starkly beautiful.

Blue Topaz Five Stone Diamond Ring

The Blue topaz creates a subtler effect than its golden cousin. Its light colouration is most akin to the precious stone aquamarine and as in the example shown above this bright ocean blue can be perfectly complemented with an array of diamonds.

Star Sapphire Clear Topaz Cluster Ring

When Topaz is not the main focus of a piece it can be employed to add its character to another stone and create a different effect. In the example above a ring of clear topaz have been set in a halo surrounding a star sapphire. Although star sapphires are rare, and possess a completely unique beauty, this particular specimen is quite dark. The topaz stones provide a brighter contrast, but do not overwhelm the subtle star effect as a ring of diamonds might.

Interested in topaz jewellery? At Laurelle we have extensive experience in finding the most beautiful examples of topaz jewellery. You can view our full collection of topaz pieces here.

If you are looking for a particular piece and need to ask some questions feel free to get in touch with us via email at enquiries@antiquejewellerygroup.com or via telephone on England: 0333 700 4500 – our team of experts are always happy to help!