History and Lore of Topaz
Blu topaz is the birthstone for the month of December, and the stone given in celebration of the 4th and 19th anniversaries of marriage. Topaz is a symbol of love and affection, and has been said to be an aid to ones sweetness and disposition.
Topaz gets its name from the Greek word topazion, which may originate from the Sanskrit tapas, meaning, “fire.” The name might also come from the name of the Egyptian island of Topazos (now St Johns island) in the Red Sea. The Latin writer Pliny the Elder used the island’s name for a yellowish green stone found there, and it soon became the name for most yellow stones. Topaz was once predominantly found there but is now also found in Brazil, Nigeria, Australia, Burma, and Mexico.
The Greeks and Romans greatly valued topaz as a gemstone. In medieval times, small wine-yellow Saxonian Topaz was mined at Schneckenstein in the Erzgebirge Mountains in Saxony Germany, and several rulers wore these specimens in jewelry. Deep mining was later used at the site from 1737 to 1800. Topaz was always a prized and rare stone from the time of the middle Ages until discoveries of large deposits in Brazil in the mid 19th century. Nowadays it is much more popular and very affordable.
In 1740, the “Braganza” diamond (1,640 carats) was found in Ouro Preto, Brazil. It was set in the Portugese crown, and was thought to be the largest diamond ever found. The fact that it was a diamond was never confirmed, and it is now believed to have been a colorless topaz.
Topaz was one of the stones selected by Aaron for his priestly breastplate. He placed it on there as the second stone in the first row of stones. Topaz is also found as one of the stones in Revelation and is one of the stones of the apocalypse. In Egyptian practices, it is the symbol of Ra, the Sun god, who was the giver of life. In Europe, topaz became strongly linked with Apollo, who is also a solar being.
The majority of topaz is colorless and is called white 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.
Blue topaz has become very popular over the years. Most of the blue topaz on the market is treated. Unfortunately there is no way yet to determine which stones have been treated and which are natural. Although blue 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 blue topaz in the trade.
Blue topaz closely resembles the finest aquamarine, and offers a very attractive and more affordable alternative to aquamarine. Some of the finer deeper blue topaz stones have been found to be radioactive. In the US, all blue 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 blue 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 ones life.
In Africa, healing rituals with topaz are practiced to establish communion with the realm of the spirit. The Bushmen who bring it to their shamanic work both for journeying, working with ancestors, and for healing, treat the stone as a highly sacred one.
Topaz was once was considered one of five elemental substances that would bring protection to the deities. The figure of a falcon engraved upon a topaz would bring the wearer goodwill and kindness of the powers that be. It was also thought that this would help one attract wealthy patrons who would support artistic endeavors.
Blue topaz in particular has been said to work with ones creative energies. Blue topaz is also excellent for promoting concentration. Many believed wearing a topaz ring would keep death from coming prematurely and would control insomnia and greed. Topaz has also been long believed to be useful for those unable to control lust- a good stone for people with sex addictions.
Topaz has been said to be of great use for protection against a wide variety of problems from emotional difficulties to fires and accidents. In 1255, St Hildegard of Bingen, the famous mystic, offered a simple remedy for failing eyesight: steep a topaz in wine for three days and then lightly rub it over the eyes. Worn around the neck, topaz was also thought to cure madness.
Topaz is used to promote good fortune. In fact, it has been said that dreaming of topaz may indicate that good fortune is on its way. These dreams can also suggest love affairs.
Traditions hold that topaz bestowed many benefits upon its wearer. It would dispel cowardice, calm the temper, cure madness and plague, and sharpen the wit. It was also thought to aid in sleep and eliminate nightmares, as well as cure rheumatism and soreness in the joints. The stone has also been credited with being effective against bleeding and heart disease. It has been said to instantly lose its color to indicate that poison is present, thus protecting its owner. The stone has also been thought to bring fidelity and friendship if constantly worn without being set aside. It was also believed to be an effective talisman against accident and fire, and to bring increased intuition and long life. To Christians, it has been known as a symbol of uprightness and virtue.
Topaz has been said to be an ideal stone for travelers, protecting them from homesickness and danger. Ancient Romans credited topaz with preventing sickness of the chest and abdominal pain. Set in gold and worn around the neck, topaz is reputed to dispel bad omens, heal poor vision and calm anger.