True Blue Topaz
This versatile and accessible gem comes in nearly every shade, including the most popular hue of all, Blue.
Which Colours are Topaz Available in?
Topaz is a great addition to the gem world, because it’s very accessible: it comes in an impressive variety of colours and it’s generally not too expensive. Historically, is was actually most associated with the colour yellow, and almost every yellowish-coloured stone, including Peridot, was called Topaz. However, now the most popular colour of Topaz is actually Blue.
Topaz is an allochromatic gemstone, which means it’s naturally and most commonly colourless, but gets its natural colour from trace elements or other chemical defects in its structure, called colour centres. The most valuable Topaz are generally Red and Pink, which get their colour from traces of Chromium, just like Ruby. Trace Chromium can also create Violet and Purplish Topaz.
Yellow, Brown and Blue Topaz get their colour from colour centres. A combination of a colour centre and trace Chromium can create Orange Topaz, which is sometimes called Imperial Topaz, which is also highly-sought after.
What is Imperial Topaz?
Imperial Topaz get its name from 19th century Russia, when its main source was the Ural Mountains, similar to highly-valued Alexandrite. These original Topaz crystals were Pink and named to honour the Russian Czar. They were so beloved that it was ruled that only the Romanov Royal Family could wear them. Now, similarly to judging Padparadscha Sapphires, the ideal colour of Imperial Topaz is very much up to interpretation. While some in the gem industry still consider Pink the true Imperial Topaz, the name is now more often associated with a Yellow to Orangey-Red hue, perhaps because Red is so often connected to Russia. (The word "krasni" in Russia refers to the colour Red, while the near identical "krasivi" is the modern Russian word for “beautiful.”) In Brazil, where most fine Topaz is now mined, Imperial Topaz is considered closer to a true Yellow. Others believe that Imperial Topaz must exhibit pleochroism—a trait also found in other gems, including Tanzanite—which displays flashes of colour when viewed in certain directions. In this case, the ideal flashes would be Red.
What is the Rarest Colour of Topaz?
Adding to the mythology, the rarest natural colour of Topaz is Red. Less than 0.5% of all facet-grade material found is Red. Natural Pink, or “Rose” Topaz is also quite rare, with the most sought-after, vibrant hues having a slightly Violet tint. These sought-after shades are most often sourced in Brazil and Pakistan. Some Pink Topaz on the market has been heat treated. However, because of the gem’s susceptibility to splitting, the heating must be done very carefully, and the gem must contain traces of Chromium in order to achieve the highly-sought after rosy result.
What is the Most Popular Colour of Topaz?
Strong Blue Topaz is very rarely found in nature, and so most of the Blue Topaz found on the market today has been irradiated and heated from either naturally colourless Topaz, or those with a Yellowish or Greenish colour. This treatment process was invented in the 1970s, resulting in the gem, which looks nearly identical to Aquamarine, to flood the market. Since the treatment was especially stable and uniform, it allowed major jewellery companies to include them in their collections, leading to their intense popularity. Now there is a wide variety of Blue hues that Topaz is available in. For example, some deep greenish-blue gems have recently become popular and are commonly referred to as “London Topaz.” The colourless stones that often end up as Blue are also sourced in Brazil, but can also be found in Sri Lanka, Australia, Mexico, and many African countries.
Is Topaz Suitable for Daily Wear?
Similar to Tourmaline, Topaz tends to grow in very large, elongated crystals, so it’s often cut in longer shapes, such as Ovals, Pears and Emerald-cuts. While it’s an 8 on the Moh’s Hardness Scale, Topaz can be prone to cleavage, which means its chemical bonds are much weaker in one direction than the other. This can cause it to split if it hit very hard or exposed to other stressors, which can make it difficult to cut, polish and set. For this reason, jewellers often set Topaz in earrings and necklaces versus rings, and Topaz rings are often designed with a protective bezel setting.
When wearing, storing and cleaning Topaz, special care should be taken to avoid extreme changes in temperature, including steam and ultrasonic cleaners and prolonged exposure to heat and sunlight.