November actually has two official birthstones – topaz and citrine. But for this post we’ll concentrate on topaz, especially the warm-colored varieties. From sunny yellow to fiery orange to peony pink, topaz offers gem lovers a dazzling array of colors, including pinks and purples that give the finest fancy sapphires a run for their money. Topaz comes in blue tones, too, but that’s a chapter we’ll save for December’s birthstone story. This month, as temperatures cool down in most parts of the country, we celebrate the golden tones of topaz, believed to bring warmth and prosperity to those all who wear it.
The name topaz is likely derived from the island of Topazos, in the Red Sea, where Romans discovered the yellowish gems. Ancient Egyptians said the gemstone was colored with the golden glow of the sun god Ra, giving it the power to protect the faithful against harm. Today, the main sources of topaz include Ouro Prêto, Brazil, and Russia’s Ural Mountains.
The colors of topaz are often identified simply by their hue names – pink topaz, for instance — but there are a couple of special trade names that are important to know when shopping for topaz. According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), imperial topaz is a medium reddish-orange to orange-red, and one of the gem’s most expensive colors. Sherry topaz — named after the sherry wine — is a yellowish-brown or brownish-yellow to orange color. Stones in this color range are often called precious topaz to help distinguish them from like-colored but less expensive citrine and smoky quartz.
A polished topaz that displays a combination of two colors is called bicolor topaz. Some believe that pink topaz, often called rose topaz, resembles a pink diamond or a bright pink sapphire. Pink topaz has certain advantages over these two gems, however. It is much less expensive than pink diamonds, and it is often available in larger sizes than either
diamonds or sapphires.
Topaz has captured the public’s imagination throughout the ages, and like all gems it has its own mythology. For example, topaz has been said to change color in the presence of poisoned food or drink! Its mystical powers are believed by some to wax and wane with the phases of the moon. And ancient Greeks believed that topaz had the power to increase strength and make its wearer invisible!
Happy Birthday to all of you November-born OBJ fans. Why not visit a jeweler near you and try on a dazzling topaz today!
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The New York Times, November 6, 2013