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Topaz: Gem of the Setting Sun

Topaz: Gem of the Setting Sun

The mystery and allure of topaz goes back thousands of years. The Egyptians, for instance, believed the gem was colored with the golden glow of the mighty sun god Ra, which protected the wearer from harm. Meanwhile, the Romans associated topaz with Jupiter, the god of the sun. The name topaz is thought to come from the Greek word "topazos" meaning "to shine" which also implies "fire."

Topaz also holds the distinction of being the gemstone thought to have the widest range of curative powers. Legend has it that the gem can dispel enchantment and improve the eyesight. The ancient Greeks believed that it had the power to increase strength and make its wearer invisible in times of emergency. Topaz is also said to change color in the presence of poisoned food or drink. Throughout history, different cultures have believed that the stone could cure insomnia, asthma and hemorrhages; bring friendship; promote patience and a pleasant disposition; and ensure fidelity. To the ancients, it was also a symbol of love and affection and was even thought to ward off sudden death.

Blue topaz is the recommended jewelry gift for couples celebrating their fourth anniversary; Imperial topaz (sherry red, deep pink or reddish-orange) for their 23rd. The "Imperial" moniker came about following the discovery of pink topaz in Russia during the 19th century. The gem was so coveted, its ownership was restricted to the Czar, his family, and to those who received it as a royal gift.

Although topaz is most often associated with its golden yellow hues, it also occurs colorless, as well as orange-yellow, red, honey-brown, light green, blue and pink. Imperial shades are the rarest and therefore, the most valuable.

Most brownish topaz is heated to produce a permanent pink color. Blue topaz is extremely popular today due to its clarity, durability, availability and durability; it has been in great demand as a less costly substitute to aquamarine. However, topaz is rarely found in blue shades in nature. This color is most often created through a combination of heat-treatment and irradiation.

In 1998, a new type of enhanced topaz made its appearance: the surface-enhanced topaz. These stones have colors that have range from blue to greenish-blue or emerald green.

Topaz is mined mainly in Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and China. With a ranking of "8" on the Mohs scale of hardness, it is a very hard stone durable enough for everyday wear. However, care should be taken to protect it from sharp blows.

Perhaps the most famous topaz is a giant specimen set in the Portuguese Crown, the Braganza, which was first thought to be a diamond. There is also a beautiful topaz set in the Green Vault in Dresden, Germany, one of the world's important gem collections.