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Imperial Topaz

Imperial Topaz

The name topaz probably comes from Topazios, the early Greek name for the island of Zabargad, a major source of peridot (the stone originally called topaz). The reason the name topaz switched from the stone now called peridot to the mineral it now denotes is unclear. The name also may be derived from the Sanskrit word "tapaz", meaning "fire". The highly prized imperial topaz shown here is intense golden to reddish orange and is found in Ouro Preto, Brazil. More commonly, topaz is colorless to pale blue or yellow. Until the 1950s, topaz was known almost exclusively as a yellow to golden colored gemstone. However since then, the routine radiation and heat treatment of pale-colored topaz to turn it deep blue has changed the public's perception of this gem. To most jewelry buyers today, topaz is recognized primarily as an affordable blue gemstone.

Large Topaz Crystals

Large Topaz Crystals

Topaz is renowned for its ability to grow huge gem-quality crystals. Shown here are two of the world's finest large topaz crystals weighing 31.8 kg (70 lb) and 50.4 kg (111 lb) respectively. These crystals, mined in Minas Gerias, Brazil, were originally slated to be cut up for scientific instruments, however a more suitable material was discovered. What look like gas bubbles rising inside are imprints of albite crystals that once grew against the back surfaces. At 22,892.5 carats, the "American Golden" topaz (center) is one of the world's largest gemstones. It was faceted by Leon Agee over a period of two years in the late 1980's from an 11.8 kg (26 lb) stream-rounded topaz cobble. The "American Golden" has 172 facets and measures 17.53 x 14.94 x 9.34 cm (6.9 x 5.9 x 3.7 in).

Topaz

Topaz

Until the 1950s, topaz was known almost exclusively as a yellow to golden gemstone. But since then, the routine radiation and heat treatment of pale-colored topaz to turn it deep blue has changed the public's perception of this gem. To most people today, topaz is recognized primarily as an affordable blue gemstone. The highly prized imperial topaz is intense golden to reddish orange in color. More commonly topaz is colorless to pale blue or yellow. Pink or red stones are rare, although pink stones can be produced by heating the golden brown topaz from Ouro Preto, Brazil. This football-shaped blue topaz gem from Minas Gerais, Brazil, weighs 7,033 carats. Like most blue topaz, its color is the result of irradiation and heat treatment; originally this topaz was probably colorless or very pale yellow-brown.

Topaz (variety: bi-color)

Topaz (variety: bi-color)

Until the 1950s, topaz was known almost exclusively as a yellow to golden gemstone. The highly prized imperial topaz is an intense golden to reddish orange color and is very rare. However, the routine radiation and heat treatment of lower-quality colorless or pale blue and yellow topaz, turns it shades of blue. Today, most jewelry buyers recognize topaz as an affordable blue gemstone. Although colorless topaz can be turned blue, the topaz that can be turned pink appears to only come from Brazil. Crystals that show a pink color with brown or orange modifiers have the best chance of turning pink with heat treatment. The gem must have enough chromium, a trace element that is the essential coloring agent, for what gem dealers call "pinking." This beautiful bi-color topaz ranges from salmon to violet-pink in color and was gifted to the Smithsonian in 2003.

Topaz Gems

Topaz Gems

Until the 1950s, topaz was known almost exclusively as a yellow to golden gemstone. But since then, the routine radiation and heat treatment of pale-colored topaz to turn it deep blue has changed the public's perception of this gem. To most people today, topaz is recognized primarily as an affordable blue gemstone. The highly prized imperial topaz is intense golden to reddish orange in color. More commonly topaz is colorless to pale blue or yellow. Pink or red stones are rare, although pink stones can be produced by heating the golden brown topaz from Ouro Preto, Brazil. The topaz gems pictured here exhibit the various colors and are from Russia, Texas, Japan, Madagascar, and Brazil, ranging in weight from 18 to 816 carats.


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