Gems: Topaz

photo of precious gem- topaz

Most authorities agree that the name topaz comes from Topazios, the old Greek name for a small island in the Red Sea, now called Zabargad. (The island never produced topaz, but it was once a source of peridot, which was confused with topaz before the development of modern mineralogy.) Some scholars trace the origin back to Sanskrit (an ancient language of India) and the word topas or tapaz, meaning “fire.”

  • Precious topaz is a birthstone for November and blue topaz is a birthstone for December.
  • Topaz is allochromatic, which means that its color is caused by impurity elements or defects in its crystal structure rather than by an element of its basic chemical composition.
  • The element chromium causes natural pink, red, and violet-to-purple colors in topaz.
  • Imperfections at the atomic level in topaz crystal structure can cause yellow, brown, and blue color.
  • Brown is a common topaz color, and the gem is sometimes mistakenly called “smoky quartz.”
  • Topaz actually has an exceptionally wide color range that, besides brown, includes various tones and saturations of blue, green, yellow, orange, red, pink, and purple.
  • Imperial topaz is a medium reddish orange to orange-red. This is one of the gem’s most expensive colors.
  • Sherry topaz—named after the sherry wine—is a yellowish brown or brownish yellow to orange.
  • Topaz is also pleochroic, meaning that the gem can show different colors in different crystal directions.
  • Mohs Hardness: 8
  • Chemical Formula: Al2(F,OH)2SiO4
  • Sources:,,
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