The Legends And Science Of Topaz

Topaz is a gem that has legends and science weaving together the brilliance of this gem.

Earlier this year, I applied for a scholarship with the Gemological Institution of America (GIA) I wasn't chosen–just found out today. I want to learn gemology–not so I can work at Zales, but just to enhance my own experience with gems and minerals.

So I checked out the International Gem Society (IGS) and became a member–it’s only $20 a month and part of this includes mini-courses on different gems and even gemology tools. This made me realize that I wasn’t ready for a GIA course. However, these mini-courses from IGS are very enlightening.

The first gem I picked is my birthstone, Topaz. Here’s what I learned.



Topaz Symbolism

I think what draws me most to minerals and gems are the mystical sides of them. After all, I came into this from the crystal healing side. Topaz, which is my own birthstone, is associated with wealth, health, love, and astrology. Before the science of gemology was developed, pretty much all golden, yellow, brown, and orange transparent gems were known as topaz. However, today’s modern science of gemology has shown that there are many species of colored gemstones.



Magical Legends

  • Wear on the left arm for protection against dark magic.
  • Relieves arthritis pain, helps with weight loss, attracts love.
  • If kept at home, Topaz could ward off accidents and fires.
  • Place under a pillow to prevent nightmares.
  • Taken as an elixir could cure a variety of ailments.

St. Hildegard’s dim vision recipe:

Soak topaz in wine for three days and nights. Rub gently on the eyes. It’s noted that this legend is where the popular belief that topaz could make its wearer invisible came from.

In Hindu traditions, Topaz is associated with the planet Jupiter. Jupiter is well known for its representation of abundance and wealth.



Colors Of Topaz

Topaz doesn’t get its colors from chromophores like many gems. Instead, it has color centers which are defects in the crystal structure. Fresh out of the ground, most Topaz is colorless or clear. However, there are some that do have color. Natural Blue Topaz is rare while heat-treated blue Topaz is common.

In the 1960s, a two-step heat and radiation lab treatment has been used to enhance colorless Topaz or pale blue Topaz to make it more vivid. There are three types of Blue Topaz (the heat and radiated versions):

  • London Blue. Dark and Steel-blue color.
  • Swiss Blue. Highly saturated greenish-blue.
  • Sky Blue. Pale blue that resembles aquamarines in hue and tone.

Different processes produce the following colors:

  • Neutron bombardment in a nuclear reactor produces the deep, slightly greenish or grayish “London Blue.”
  • Electron bombardment in a linear accelerator results in the light, aqua-like blue known as “Sky Blue.”
  • Combinations of both treatments produce the highly saturated “Swiss” and “Electric Blues.”

Imperial Topaz is a type of Topaz that has a beautiful reddish-orange color. The name Imperial Topaz is inspired by their association with the Russian Czars. These are rare and make up less than have of a percent of all gem-quality Topazes found.

Pink or rose Topaz is very rare and gets its color from manganese. Sherry Topaz has a yellow-brown to orange color and often goes by the trade name “precious Topaz.” Sometimes these gems receive radiation treatments.

Yellow Topaz is what comes to mind when people think of Topaz. This is my birthstone.

Colorless or Clear Topaz has often been mistaken for diamonds even though they are not as hard as diamonds. The Braganza Diamond of the Portuguese crown jewels turned out to be a 1,680-carat colorless Topaz.

Mystic Topaz is colorless Topaz that has been coated with metallic oxide. This gives the stone a cool color effect when light enters the stone. Azotic Topaz is also coated, but it exhibits warmer colors while Mystic exhibits the cooler colors.