Topaz – Alternate Birthstone for November

Throughout history, topaz has gained prominence as the birthstone for November, a common anniversary gift, and as a gem to be used in many pieces of jewelry. It has been associated with values such as strength, wisdom and courage. It does come in a variety of colors, including golden brown or yellow, blue, red, and green. It should be noted that blue topaz doesn’t actually occur in nature; it does get confused with aquamarine, but is made by taking the colorless topaz, irradiating it and then heating it.

December Birthstone - Blue TopazTopaz is also frequently confused with citrine, another November birthstone, but citrine is less valuable and therefore less expensive. Topaz is, however, one of the more attractive gemstones, as it is very well formed and multifaceted. It also can grow to enormous proportions of several hundred pounds, making it highly marketable, as several dozen gemstones can be formed from one large sample. They make excellent mineral specimens as well, as they are extremely lustrous.

As a gemstone, topaz is not terribly sensitive to various chemicals, and outside of needing to ensure it’s appropriately cared for, it’s one of the more durable gems. Imperial Topaz, which is fairly scarce, is a fine golden-yellow. The elements that give topaz its hue are iron and chromium.

The name most likely comes from an island in the Red Sea, “Topazos,” today called Zabargad, which was once a source of peridot. Today, Brazil is one of the most significant global suppliers of topaz, while other deposits are found in places such as Afghanistan, Australia, China, Japan, and Madagascar, among other global locations. England, Northern Ireland and Scotland are also sources of natural light blue topaz.

Generally speaking, most topaz that is found is in the form of clear crystals; these are then irradiated to change the color and heated to stabilize any change that occurs. Neutron or electron bombardment may also be done on the gems, but these can’t be sold immediately, as there is residual radioactivity. That means the gems have to be held up to a year before they have been deemed safe to be worn.

In general, blue topaz is reasonably priced, but due to the costs associated with reactor time, the more specialized types of blue topaz, such as London Blue, are expensive and come in short supply.

Because of its multifaceted qualities, topaz colors can range from blue to greenish blue for some of the blue topazes, or golden to brown for some of the yellow topazes. Thanks to advances in technology, the surface-enhanced topaz made its appearance in 1998, and its colors are described as blue to greenish-blue or emerald green. The vast majority of pink topazes are heat-treated yellow stones that turn pink. In short, while topaz is a naturally occurring mineral, and certainly the hardest of the silicates, many of its colorful properties are not actually brought about until the crystals are treated through a blend of irradiation or heat.

While topaz is a naturally occurring, prolific gemstone, its colors are not necessarily discovered until the stone is put through various treatments. The treatment itself, as well as the size of the gem, can impact the overall cost of the stone itself. Topaz, however, endures as the birthstone for November because of its meaning of strength, courage and wisdom. This has offered those going through life’s trials some hope to draw on.