Most people are already familiar with topaz, with it being one of the most iconic and well-known gemstones. Topaz ranges in color, from yellow to brown to red and even colorless topaz, with many shades in between. Topaz derives its color based on trace elements of impurities found within.
Today, many topazes are heat-treated to achieve a certain look. Topaz has a low index of refraction, meaning it does not sparkle quite like other gemstones do. Pleochroism is a property of topaz, meaning it can appear to change color depending on the angle it is viewed from. Topaz is quite hard, being an 8 on the Mohs scale.
The etymology of the name ‘topaz’ is uncertain, but it is generally believed to be derived from an ancient Greek name for St. John’s Island/Zabargad in the Red Sea, where Pliny had written about a legendary island where ‘topaz’ was mined. Other sources link topaz to a Sanskrit word meaning ‘heat’ or ‘fire’.
Naming discrepancies were common with topaz, as the word ‘topaz’ was often used as a catch-all to describe yellow gemstones throughout the Medieval Period in Europe. Topaz is named in the Bible but most believe it to be another misnomer, confusing topaz for peridot.
Topaz was thought to bestow a wide range of benefits upon its wearer, with superstitions ranging from curing to lunacy to providing protection against curses or in battle. The Romans believed topaz would protect travelers, and they dedicated topaz to their god Jupiter.
From the 17th-19th century, Brazil was the center of the world’s longest lasting gold rush. Then a colony belonging to the Portuguese Empire, a lot of wealth was extracted from Brazil and made its way across to Europe. This included the Braganza topaz on the Portuguese Crown, named after the House of Braganza, the dynasty which ruled the Portuguese Empire from 1640 to 1910.
In Tsarist Russia around the same period, so-called Imperial topaz was discovered in the Ural Mountains and became sole property of the Tsar. Only members of the royal family were permitted to own topaz and thus the name ‘Imperial topaz’ stuck.
It can be mined in multiple locations across the globe, including, but not limited to Russia, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Italy, the United States, Mexico and Brazil. We source our topaz from Mexico.
To get your own unique piece of topaz jewelry, check out our made to order topaz section here.