Now you too can have long life.. beauty.. and.. intelligence.. and all just by wearing a Topaz above your heart! Well, that’s what they believed in ancient India.
For those of you born in November, you probably know that your birthstone is Topaz. But, I’ll bet you don’t know how amazingly beautiful Topaz can be. For the most part, the Topaz that we see really isn’t topaz at all, but Citrine instead. Primarily because Citrine is a similar colour to common Topaz and a fraction of the price. Not that Citrine is a bad stone, not at all, but it’s no where near the beauty of a real Imperial Topaz.
Many authorities agree that the name topaz comes from Topazios, the old Greek name for a small island in the Red Sea, now called Zabargad. Although the island never produced topaz, it was once a source of peridot, which was often confused with topaz in the ancient world. Others trace the origin of the word back to Sanskrit (an ancient language of India) and the word topas or tapaz, meaning “fire.” I like that description better, let’s go with that.
The ancient Greeks believed that topaz gave them strength. In Europe during the Renaissance (the 14 and 1500’s) people thought that topaz could break magic spells and dispel anger. For centuries, many people in India have believed that topaz worn above the heart assures long life, beauty, and intelligence. Who knows, might be worth a try.
There are also differing opinions as to where the name for Imperial topaz came from. Some say it originated in nineteenth-century Russia. At the time, the Ural Mountains were topaz’s leading source, and the pink gemstone mined there was named to honor the Russian Czar. Ownership of the gem was said to have been restricted to the royal family. Others (like myself) believe that since the “Imperial” colour has really only ever been found in Brazil outside of small town called Ouro Preto, the same story might apply, but with the then Emperor Dom Pedro as the Honoree instead of the Russian Czar. The Russian Royal family has Alexandrite named after them, it’s only fair that Brazil’s royal family have one too.
Today, Topaz can be found in many countries around the world, but the truly amazing Imperial colour only comes from Brazil, just outside the town I mentioned earlier, Ouro Preto. The pictures show typical Ouro Preto street scenes. It’s an amazing place. Carved into the hills, you have to be in good shape to live there. Many of the streets are literally on a 20 degree angle!! It’s now a world heritage site and a college town and beautifully preserved. If you ever get a chance to travel to Brazil, it’s a great place to spend a day or two.
But, back to the stone, Imperial Topaz, is basically any Topaz that has a reddish component in the colour. Reddish, Sherry, pinky gold, how ever you describe the colour, is one of the most sought-after colors and represents less than one-half of 1 percent of gem quality Topaz found. Many dealers insist that a stone must show a reddish color in one direction in the stone to be called imperial topaz. The reddish color often appears at the ends of gem. With a hardness of 8 on the Mohs scale, Topaz is a relatively hard gem. It does have what’s called ‘basal cleavage’ though, so it’s not the toughest of gems and can fracture. Wear with care and clean often and you’ll have a gem that you can be proud of for generations.