Types of Topaz

by Ritika Changrani

The Topaz is a beautiful gem symbolizing love and affection. It can be found in a variety of colors ranging from red, pink to brown, blue and even colorless. A true topaz is known as an "imperial topaz". The topaz is available in every imaginable shape and size, making it a coveted gem for jewelry settings.

The birthstone for those born in the month of November, the Topaz is the symbol of love and affection. A true Topaz is rare today. In fact, most people have never seen a topaz. What is available at most jewelry stores is just the quartz or citrine topaz, in other words, glass. In olden days, all yellow stones were called topaz. However, a topaz is available in a variety of brilliant hues and is extremely beautiful.

The topaz is a very hard stone, nearly as hard as the diamond. It has a wide color range and is very expensive. A true topaz will always be labeled as an "imperial topaz". Be wary of name like "Spanish topaz", " Palmeira topaz", "Bahia topaz", "Citrine topaz" etc. as they are all names given to mislead customers - they are not topaz at all.

COLOR : The gem Topaz is commonly found to be either colorless or brown in color. The brown topaz may fade in color with time. The more popular varieties of topaz are rarer and occur in golden, pink, orange, purple and light to medium red. Most of the colors are as a result of combination of heat treatment and irradiation. The yellow and brown topaz appear so as a result of their color centers. If chromium, an impurity, is present, the gem will appear pink or red. Presence of chromium and color centers give rise to the orange topaz.

THE BLUE TOPAZ : The blue topaz is commonly found in nature as a result of color centers. It is a fine yet cheaper substitute to aquamarine in jewelry pieces. The types of blue colors that are present in a topaz are :

London Blue - It is the darkest blue. The lower quality crystals sometimes have a grey tone to it.
Electric Blue - This is the best color being very blue and vibrant and not as dark as the London Blue.
Sierra Blue - It is a medium blue, but not as deep or hot colored as the Electric Blue.
Swiss Blue - This is quite similar to Sierra Blue but a little lighter.
Sky Blue - It is a pale light blue in color.
Light Blue - This is pale, and very slight bluish tint.

CLARITY : A good quality topaz from any source will be reasonably clean. This is why eye - clean gems are possible and hence extremely desirable. The notable exceptions are red and pink topaz, which usually occur as small stones and thus, a higher degree of inclusions may be tolerated.

CUT : The topaz is typically cut as elongated gems because of their roughly elongated prisms. The common cuts used with the topaz are emerald cuts, cushions, elongated ovals and pears. The pears are often cut with overly narrow shoulders to save on weight. The blue topaz is mass produced due to the high demand and thus is cut in virtually all imaginable shapes and sizes. The topaz is rarely cabochon cut.

STONE SIZES : The stone topaz occurs in a variety of sizes and may even be enormous. Clean stones of 1000 cts. have known to be found. In fact, monster crystals have been cut to obtain faceted gems of tens of thousands of carats. The "imperial topaz" in orange, pink and red is rarer. Reds and pinks are typically found in 5 cts. or less. The orange topaz usually occurs in 20 cts. or less.

LIGHTING : In order to examine a topaz, correct lighting is essential. The orange, red, and orangish - red varieties are best looked at under incandescent light. On the other hand, the blue topaz generally looks best when seen in natural daylight or under fluorescent light. It is recommended to minutely study a gem under a variety of light sources before making the final purchase, to avoid any future shocks.

PRICES : The value of a topaz totally depends on its quality, like any other gem. To simplify things and to give you an idea, certain generalizations can be made. The most common and sought - after variety is the blue topaz. It is produced in large quantities in keeping with the demand. Because of its sheer availability the price of a blue topaz is usually $25 per carat for ring sizes, at a retail store. The larger sizes will obviously be slightly more expensive. The blue topaz occurs naturally, but owing to the mass production of treated blue topaz, the price of the natural blue has dropped down to that of its treated counterpart.

The brown topaz is available for $8 per carat. The colorless topaz, from which the blue topaz is produced through heat treatment and irradiation, sells for less than $8 per carat and is usually available in sizes upto 100 carats.

In stark contrast, the "imperial topaz" i.e. the rich orange or golden in color, sells for more than $1000 per carat for the larger sizes (more than 10 ct pieces). The most valuable and hence expensive is the rich pink or red topaz and can be bought for as high as $3500 per carat, at retail prices.

Keep in mind the above guidelines and you will not go wrong while buying a topaz. Always take time and examine the gem before purchase - its your money after all. The topaz is an alluring yet comparatively inexpensive gem that can be used to great advantage in jewelry settings.

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