The majority of topaz is colorless and is called topaz. The next most abundant color of topaz is blue and green. The most frequently seen stones in jewelry are the shades yellow or sherry brown, and pink. Clear, pink, blue and honey-yellow varieties of topaz are especially valued. The most sought after and expensive colors are called “imperial topaz.” In the past, it was thought that all yellow gems were topaz and that all topaz was yellow. We now know topaz varies in color from pale blue and colorless, to yellow, orange, brown and pink. The pink stones so popular in Victorian jewelry were produced by heat-treating golden-brown topaz from Brazil.
Topaz has become very popular over the years. Most of the topaz on the market is treated. Unfortunately there is no way yet to determine which stones have been treated and which are natural. Although topaz has not been manufactured synthetically on a commercial scale, a completely natural looking blue coloration has been produced in colorless topaz by means of irradiation with gamma rays. This practice is regarded as legitimate in the trade, and is becoming increasingly widespread. It is one of the reasons for the present abundance of topaz in the trade.
Topaz closely resembles the finest aquamarine, and offers a very attractive and more affordable alternative to aquamarine. Some of the finer deeper topaz stones have been found to be radioactive. In the US, all topaz must be tested for radiation levels, as according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a highly radioactive stone may be injurious to the wearer. The Gemological Institute of America now provides radiation testing to the jewelry trader. Be careful if you are buying topaz outside of the US- if you do, it may be wise to have it tested when you come home.
In Hindu mythology, the word for topaz means heat. Topaz is one of the sacred stones of the Hindu’s Kalpa tree. It is well known and very sacred to the Hindus. It is one of the 9 sacred stones upon a talisman of nine gems. The Hindus believe that worn as a pendant, this gemstone will relieve thirst, sharpen intelligence and lengthen one’s life.
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