This time of year, most Americans start thinking about the many things in life that we’re thankful for. At Copeland Jewelers, your ATX fine jewelry store, we’re thankful for many things, but we’re especially thankful for this month’s beautiful, versatile birthstone: the topaz.
Once upon a time, the word “topaz” was used to refer to all yellowish stones, but today the word refers to stones with the chemical composition aluminium silicate fluoride hydroxide. Topaz is generally thought of as a yellowish-brown stone, but pure topaz is actually clear! If certain impurities are present in the stone’s chemical make-up, however, the gem can appear as any one of a great many colors – blue, green, yellow, pink, red, brown, and even black. The most prized and most expensive variety of topaz is a brilliant orange shade with pink undertones, named “imperial topaz” after the Russian czars, since it was mined in Russia’s Ural Mountains. During the nineteenth century, only royalty was allowed to own imperial topaz in Russia. Blue topaz was once extremely rare, but these days it’s easy to use modern irradiation techniques to turn clear topaz blue with a little bit of heat. Blue topaz is especially important to Texas because it became our state gem in 1969; although it’s not commercially mined here, it can be found naturally various places in the state.
In ancient Rome and Egypt topaz was associated with various sun gods, and people believed it had powers to heal and protect. During the Renaissance, Europeans believed topaz could break spells and calm anger, and ancient Hindus considered the stone sacred for its supposed powers to bring one wisdom and a long life. Topaz has also been believed by various cultures to prevent mental disorders and protect against sudden death. There were a number of medical theories about the gemstone; it was thought that adding powdered topaz to wine could cure asthma and insomnia, and wine that had had a topaz resting in it for three days could improve vision if it was rubbed on the eyes.
Today we know that topaz is a wonderful stone for making jewelry because it is very hard and durable, thanks to its strong chemical bonds. Topaz earrings in various shades of color seem to be a particular favorite of Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales, and topaz is also popularly used in bracelets, necklaces, clips, and brooches. Today most topaz is mined in Brazil, although it is also produced in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Russia, Germany, Australia, and Nigeria and in New Hampshire, Utah, and California in the United States.
The largest uncut specimen of topaz in the world weighs nearly six hundred pounds! It was mined in Brazil and is on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and it is certainly a sight to see. If you’re looking for topaz of a slightly more manageable size, contact your Austin custom jeweler, Copeland Jewelers, today! We love to work with topaz, and we would be thrilled to help you find your perfect topaz piece or create something bespoke for you this holiday season.