Birthstone of the Month for November: Topaz

Birthstone Jewellery

The November birthstone is the topaz, a beautiful gem that can be found in all the colours of the rainbow. However, this stone is typically associated with either a vibrant yellow colour or with striking shades of blue. Topaz is one of the hardest naturally-occurring materials and has been desired and worn by royalty for centuries. Topaz is an alluring gem that presents a wide range of lovely rich colours that have ignited imaginations for centuries.

History of the Topaz

Topaz is a silicate mineral that typically forms in fractures and cavities of igneous rocks, such as pegmatite. This stone is often mistaken for other gems, mainly due to its ability to present several different hues; it can also be colourless. The Portuguese used to call these colourless topaz gems ‘pingos de água’ or ‘drops of water’.

Some believe that the term ‘topaz’ comes from a small island in the Red Sea called Topazios, where golden stones were once found; today, the same island is called Zabargad, meaning ‘peridot’ in Arabic, as the gemstones discovered here were peridots. Others believe that the gemstone’s name comes from the Sanskrit word ‘tapaz’, or ‘fire’.

The November birthstone was discovered more than 2,500 years ago. The Ancient Greeks thought that topaz gave them strength, and Ancient Egyptians believed the gem received its gorgeous colour from the golden glow of Ra, the sun god.

During the Renaissance period in Europe, people believed that this gemstone was able to break magic spells and dispel anger. For many centuries, Indians attributed the practice of wearing the stone above the heart to a long lifespan, beauty and intelligence, often wearing topaz in necklaces and pendants. The word ‘topaz’ is also mentioned in the Bible, including the King James version.

There’s a type of topaz called imperial or precious topaz, which originated in 19th-century Russia. The Ural Mountains were the main source of this gem, and ownership of the pink-red stone mined in this location was limited to the royal family only; its red colouration is still considered today to be the rarest and most valuable hue.

The most popular sources of topaz are in Brazil, although other famous producers of this stone include Russia, Germany and Nigeria.

Image: Platinum London Blue Topaz and Diamond Halo Ring

Properties of the Topaz

The properties of the topaz make it an incredibly popular gemstone for jewellery.

Colour – Pure topaz is transparent and colourless. The vast rainbow of colours this stone is known for is due to natural impurities in its structure, such as iron and chromium content. There are also several treatments and enhancements available that can alter or improve the properties of topaz, including its colour. Less than 1% of all gem-grade topaz exhibits shades of red, the rarest hue. Topaz also presents pleochroism, an optical effect where a stone shows different colours depending on the angle of observation.

Hardness – Topaz is an 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making it a durable gemstone, perfect for pieces of jewellery that can be worn every day.

Lustre – This precious gem is well-known – and highly regarded – for its brilliance and lustre, possessing an almost velvety and glassy appearance.

Image: 18ct White Gold Topaz and Diamond Cocktail Ring

Famous Topaz Around the World

Since its discovery, topaz has been cherished by many cultures around the world and remains one of the most sought-after gems today. Some of the most popular topaz stones include:

  • American Golden Topaz – Originating in Brazil, this is the largest cut topaz in the world. This stunning cushion-cut gem weighs a massive 22,892.5 carats, possesses a light golden-brown colour and is almost flawless in clarity. This topaz took two whole years to cut and is now at the Natural History Museum in Washington DC.
  • Ostro Stone – Three decades ago, this vivid blue topaz was found by Max Ostro, a man considered to be a ‘real-life Indiana Jones’. It measures 15 cm in length, weighs 9,381 carats (almost two kilos) and is considered priceless.
  • Bragança Diamond – The Bragança Diamond was initially believed to be a diamond and later found to be a topaz. This stone was discovered in Minas Gerais in Brazil, in the late 18th century. It got its name from the ruling dynasty of Portugal at the time, the House of Bragança. Boasting 1,680 carats, this colourless gem is one of the most well-known topaz gems ever found and adorns the Portuguese Crown. Colourless topaz is also known as crystal or silver topaz.

Topaz at Banks Lyon

Topaz comes in many different colours, but the popular wintry blue hues most commonly associated with this gemstone make it the perfect November birthstone.

At Banks Lyon, we offer topaz jewellery that adds a classy and stylish aesthetic to any wardrobe, be it in the form of a ring, pendant or pair of earrings. As such, this precious stone is suited for a modern woman who adores timeless luxury, sophistication and elegance.

Topaz is also a wonderful gift to commemorate the 4th and the 23rd anniversary.

Image: 9ct Yellow Gold Emerald Cut Blue Topaz Stud Earrings

You can visit us in Lancaster and Kendal to view our topaz jewellery as well as other beautiful gemstones we offer. Our selection of birthstone jewellery is vast, and we can help you to find a piece that will last a lifetime.