Etymology

The origins of the term topaz are inaccurate, as it derives from the Sanskrit word tapas (fire) or the Greek topazios (search). Via Old French: topace and Latin: topazus. Pliny the Elder (naturalist, scientist, philosopher, and roman military) said that topazos is a legendary island in the Red Sea and the mineral “topaz” was first mined there. It is worth noting that the deposits of this island are mainly chrysolite: yellowish olivine, and not surprisingly that the first discovery of Topaz was mistaken for this mineral. Numerous yellow gems have been called topaz, but the variety “Imperial Topaz” (orange-red) is regarded as a rare gem.

History

In Rome and ancient Egypt, topaz is associated with Jupiter and was considered the sunstone, the Greeks considered it with the property of increasing strength. Topaz was discovered in Russia in the nineteenth century, the stone par excellence, to which only the Tsar, his family and senior officials could access. It was a sought after gem especially during the Middle Ages, and was directly related to the strength and vigor of the mind of those who carried it.

Geological Origin

Topaz is a mineral formed by the action of fluoride vapors that emanated in the last stages of solidification of igneous rocks. It appears in pegmatites in contact granites aureoles, in quartziferous of porphyry.

Deposits

Most of the world’s production is in Brazil, and this is the only source in the world of Imperial topaz. Additionally, topaz can be found in Mexico, Sri Lanka, the United States, and to a lesser extent in Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia, Zimbabwe, Germany, Australia, and Burma.

Characteristics and Properties

Mineral Type Group IX Silicates (Nesosilicates)
Color Colourless, white, pale blue, yellow, yellowish brown, orange, red, gray, green, pink and reddish pink
Streak white
Hardness 8
Specific Gravity 3.53 – 3.56
Cleavage Perfect
Fracture Irregular/Uneven, Sub-Conchoidal
Crystal System Orthorhombic
Habit Prismatic crystals
Chemical Formula Al 2 (F, OH) 2 SiO 4
Optical Properties Biaxial (+)
Transparency Transparent
Luster Vitreous
Refractive Index 1.609 – 1.643
Birefringence 0.008
Dispersion 0.014 (BG), 0.08 (CF)
Pleochroism Weak in thick sections X = yellow; Y = yellow, violet, reddish; Z = violet, bluish, yellow, pink
Fluorescence Pink: brownish | Red: yellow brown | Yellow: orange yellow

False Names

Thanks to its variety of colors, topaz can be confused with many gems, such as apatite, aquamarine, the brazilianite, chrysoberyl, citrine quartz, the beryl, fluorite, kunzite, orthoclase, phenakite, corundum, spinel, tourmaline, diamond, and zircon, but it is not very difficult to distinguish through their constant. This is not so with the danburite by the similarity in their constant and appearance, it is best to use the specific weight as a tool for identification.

A particular variety of topaz is the sagenitic topaz containing fibers of hollow tubes filled with limonite, this topaz can be confused very easily with rutilated quartz because it contains rutile fibers. The synthetic topaz is not very common in the market and may even be more expensive than natural topaz.

In 1740, the “Braganza Diamond” (1680 carats) was found in Ouro Preto, Brazil. This diamond was thought to be the largest ever found, belonging to the Portuguese Crown, but unfortunately, it was not a diamond, just a colorless topaz.

Uses

The use of topaz in jewelry is widespread and currently also, it has applications in the field of gemmotherapy. It is said to have the power, to activate creativity, artistic sense, aesthetics, and ingenuity. It is considered to increase self-worth and self-esteem. Topaz is a powerful gem that activates the will, brings enthusiasm, optimism, and confidence in personal skills. Its influence is particularly noticeable in the social and creative area.