Topaz stone is a precious crystal known since antiquity. It is mentioned by authors such as Pliny the Elder as well as in the Bible. It was then associated with Saint Matthew who was given Topaz to illuminate the darkened hearts of his community.
Topaz was quickly associated protective powers and virtues. It was termed the ‘golden stone’ during antiquity, as it was supposed to assist in the prospecting of gold. The Egyptians, who greatly appreciated the stone for its lustre, used it for amulets. Romans and Greeks, on the other hand, used it to increase their strength and attributed it invisibility powers.
This property stems from a legend that dates from the 7th century BC. Gyges, then king of Lydia in Asia Minor, found a magic ring on the flanks of a brass horse. On one side of this ring was the image of a sun engraved on topaz. On the other, the image of a moon engraved on emerald. This magic ring contained words that, once spoken aloud, could make one invisible. Gyges used the magic properties of the ring to kill his friend in order to steal his wife and make her his mistress. He would have used this ring on many other occasions. But the ring disappeared and since then, has never been found.
In the Middle Ages, topaz was used to treat vision problems. Worn as a jewel by Pope Clement VI, who sported a topaz ring, it is also said to have cured the plagued in 1348.
It was not only in Europe that topaz was used for its many virtues. Indian doctors used it to tonify the heart and improve the blood circulation of their patients. The Chinese, on the other hand, hung it in their homes to radiate energy and good health.
The origins of the name of this beautiful crystal remain unclear. Some authors attribute its origins to the Sanskrit word ‘tapaz’ meaning ‘fire.’ Others believe that the name ‘topaz’ comes from the Greek island Topazos, now Zabargad.
For a long time, it was common to designate the majority of yellow stones as ‘topaz’. It was only from Anselme Boèce de Boot’s description of this crystal in 1609 that the name topaz referred to the gem we know today.
Topaz comes in many colours: yellow, blue, pink, white, red, purple, green and colourless (the most common variety). Topaz’s pigmentation can be changed treating it. This treatment may consist of ion diffusion on the surface of the crystal or by irradiation. It is also possible to change the pigmentation by heating the topaz or using the coating method. Natural topaz is more highly valued than topaz which has been treated.
Blue topaz is the variety the most used by jewellers. It remains rare in its natural state and is often obtained through treatment for its blue pigmentation. Often light blue, or sky blue, vibrant blue topazes, such as the Swiss Blue, are typically colourless topazes subjected to radiation and heat treatments. The London Blue topaz, meanwhile, refers to dark blue topaz. In its natural state, this crystal is extracted from deposits located in Sri Lanka, China and Nigeria. This precious crystal is considered the most beautiful among topaz varieties.
Topaz deposits exist in several parts of the globe: Asia, Africa, the United States, Eurasia, South America. However, Brazil is home to the largest topaz deposit (particularly of imperial), in the state of Minas Gerais. The most famous topaz, the Braganza, was found in a Brazilian mine in the Ouro Preto region in 1640. Weighing nearly 1689 carats, this topaz is set in the Portuguese Crown.
You can admire blue topazes from Brazil in the British Museum in London and the Natural History Museum in Chicago. These Brazilian crystals weigh 614 and 5890 carats respectively. The Fersman Museum in Moscow has a blue-green topaz that weighs more than 32 kilograms. The largest crystal specimens are on display at the Smithsonian Institution. The largest gem in the collection weighs 7725 carats.
Topaz has many virtues, both psychologically and physically.