November/December Birthstone - Topaz

Topaz, one of November’s two and December’s four birthstone options, is known to appear in almost every color. The most common color of topaz is clear (white topaz). The, blue and green are the most common. Pink topaz was very popular in the Victorian period; these stones were heat-treated, golden-brown stones.

Topaz is commonly found in Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and the United States.

imperial topaz ring
Art Deco imperial topaz ring.

The History of Indian Topaz

A saffron-yellow variety of topaz, mined in Sri Lanka, has long been popular throughout India. Talismans made from Indian Topaz have been worn to promote health, caution and the prevention of sudden death. The same mystical qualities are accepted as truth in Burmese tradition, and the gemstone is always included in the Nan-Ratan, the sacred nine-stone jewel which forms the most important ornament amongst Burmese Royalty.

A Roman History of Topaz

According to Roman historian, Pliny, the name “topaz” comes from the Island of Topazos in the Red Sea, where the stone was reportedly first discovered. He says the word “topazein” means “to seek after”, considering the island was often hidden by fog. The Roman’s believed that pirates discovered the vast supplies of topaz on the island while tearing up the ground in search of food. Ironically, topaz has never been found on the island, what they were calling topaz was actually peridot.

The Great Roman Emperor Hadrian, known as one of Rome’s most peaceful emperors, who helped encourage the spread of Christianity, is said to have used a talisman made from a topaz ring. The stone in the ring is said to have been engraved with the words “Natura”, “Deficit”, “Fortuna”, “Mutatur”, “Deus”, “Omnia”, and “Cernit”; this made up an expression of faith to God to overrule Nature and Fortune in favor of the owner of the ring.

A Religious History of Topaz

According to the Old Testament, topaz was the second stone on Aaron’s priestly breastplate. It was also selected as one of the stones of the apocalypse, in the book of Revelation.

In Egyptian religion, topaz was associated with the sun god, Ra, the giver of life. Ancient Romans believed that the stone was linked with Apollo, the god of music, poetry, art, oracles, archery, plague, medicine, sun, light and knowledge.

Topaz also holds a strong significance with Hindu culture. It is one of the sacred stones of the Kalpa tree, and it is also one of the nine sacred stones upon a talisman of nine gems. It is believed to sharpen the wearers intelligence and lead to a longer life.

Blue topaz and diamond rings
Blue topaz and dimoand rings.

Mystical Properties of Topaz

Roman’s typically wore topaz to protect themselves from pesticides in the air, injuries from burns, danger while traveling and pains in the chest or bowels. It was also said to be a treatment for gout, hemorrhoids, lunacy and sudden death. It was said to bring riches to the wearer, and it was seen as an advantageous stone for a ruler.

During the Middle Ages, topaz was seen as a powerful disenchantment against spells, when the stone was yellow and mounted in gold, especially when bound on the left arm or hung around the wearers neck. It was said to calm anger, strengthen intellect, provide lasting happiness and drive away commitment.

Fun Facts About Topaz

  • In 1740, the “Braganza Diamond” was believed to be the biggest diamond ever discovered (1,640 carats). It was placed in the Portuguese royal crown, before being lost forever after the death of John VI in 1826. It is now believed to have been a colorless topaz.
  • Most topaz mined from the ground is colorless. A simple heat-treatment will bring out an intense blue that rivals the aquamarine.
  • The largest gemstone found (of any kind) to date is a 23,000 carat yellow topaz. It is currently on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.
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