Through much of history, all yellow gems were considered topaz and all topaz was thought to be yellow. Topaz is actually available in many colors, and it’s likely not even related to the stones that first donned its name.
The name topaz derives from Topazios, the ancient Greek name for St. John’s Island in the Red Sea. Although the yellow stones famously mined there probably weren’t topaz, it soon became the name for most yellowish stones.
Pure topaz is colorless, but it can become tinted by impurities to take on any color of the rainbow. Precious topaz, ranging in color from brownish orange to yellow, is often mistaken for “smoky quartz” or “citrine quartz,” respectively—although quartz and topaz are unrelated minerals.
The most prized color is Imperial topaz, which features a vibrant orange hue with pink undertones. Blue topaz, although increasingly abundant in the market, very rarely occurs naturally and is often caused by irradiation treatment.
The largest producer of quality topaz is Brazil. Other sources include Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Russia, Australia, Nigeria, Germany, Mexico and the U.S., mainly California, Utah and New Hampshire.
Measuring 8 on the Mohs scale, topaz is a rather hard and durable gem. Its perfect cleavage can make it prone to chipping or cracking, but when cut correctly, topaz makes very wearable jewelry.
Topaz is a soothing stone that has been said to calm tempers, cure madness and eliminate nightmares.