Wednesday, October 28, 2009

November Birthstone - Yellow Topaz

Hasn't this year flown by for you? I can't believe how one month seems to blur into the next for me. It's already time to talk about the traditional birthstone for November - topaz. (Citrine is also considered a gemstone for November.) Topaz is also the birthstone for the zodiac sign Scorpio and the gemstone for the 16th wedding anniversary.

When one thinks of topaz, a warm honey color comes to mind, but the gemstone also occurs in many colors, including red, blue, violet and green.

Photo courtesy of ebay seller bankokgemmart

Topaz is a very durable and hard gemstone. It is rated 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness and is quite resistant to scratching. It is the hardest silicate mineral and one of the hardest minerals in nature.

Topaz is a durable gemstone that's resistant to scratching. It's rated 8 on the Mohs scale (compared to diamond, the hardest gemstone, at 10). The name of the gemstone is thought by some to have come from an island Topazos, which is found in the Red Sea, and was an early source for this gemstone. Others believe that it comes from the Sanskrit word "topas" meaning "fire".

Topaz stones are mentioned in the Old Testament, but many scholars believe that this reference of Topaz in the bible was actually peridot. Many scientists believe that real topaz were yellow crystals discovered in the early 1700s in Germany.

The main sources of mining today of Topaz are Brazil, Sri Lanka, Russia, Australia, Africa, Mexico and Pakistan. When purchasing topaz stones, particularly the yellow variety, the buyer must be prepared. Many of the stones sold as topaz (particularly from overseas) are actually the lesser valued citrine stones.

In natural form, topaz crystals can reach the immense size of several hundred pounds. Because of thier high luster, multi faceted crystals, and nice colors, Topaz can make very attractive mineral specimens.

The largest faceted Topaz specimen ever found was a whopping 31,000 carat stone from Brazil named El Dorado. The rough crystal weighed an astonishing 37 kg, when discovered in 1984, and after cutting and polishing the final weight was only 6.2 kg.

Other large stones include a rare, perfect blue gemstone which was discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia in 1965. It weighed 100 kilograms and a 137 pound crystal was found in Norway in 1901 that was two feet long.

Most colors of topaz are relatively common, and quite affordable, some colors like red and pink are quite rare and much sought after, so their price is much higher.

As with other gemstones, Topaz has mystical properties associated with it. It has long been attributed with gentleness, integrity and fidelity and it thought to bring wearers love, wealth and protection. In physical terms, topaz is thought to aid with poor appetite, gout, blood disorders, hemorrhages, and diseases of the endocrine system.

Caring for topaz is relatively easy. Warm soapy water and a soft brush will usually keep it in good condition. Because it is sensitive to sudden temperature changes, ultrasonic and steam cleaners should be avoided. Bright light can cause the stone to fade, so it should be carefully stored when not being used.

Here is a lovely Georgian poem which talks about the gemstone Topaz:

Who first comes to this world below
In dreary November’s fog and snow
Should prize the topaz amber hue
Emblem of friends and lovers true.

El dorado photo courtesty of of Programa Royal Collections.

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