Topaz Gemstone

Origin & History | Mining | Value | Magical Properties

The ancients have combined many different gemstones under the term “Topaz,” therefore there are some disagreements between the ancient writers and scientists concerning “indeed Topaz,” described by Pliny and Theophrastus.

However, the Topaz, known to us, is principally yellow gemstone that used in jewelry, and though this gemstone frequently occurs colorless in nature, it, nonetheless, can represent a beautiful spectrum of various colors and tints.

Origin of the Topaz and its brief History

Topaz Gemstone (Yellow)

The Topaz can’t boast such rich history as Diamond, Emerald or Ruby. It is also known (according to Pliny), that the Mauritanian King was the first who found Topaz on the island which possesses the same name (Topazios) and which has been located in the Red Sea. Although, as it is known, the first topazes suitable for jewelry purposes, nonetheless, were obtained in Brazil, in the district called Minas Geraes.

Pliny also stated, that Topaz was furthermore discovered near the Egyptian city of Thebes, during the development of the alabaster mines.

Topaz was used by the ancient Greeks as an ornamental stone. This fact can be illustrated by the examples of the medieval art. For example, Emperor Hadrian  possessed the seal ring, inlaid with Topaz, and his face was engraved on it. Also, we can observe the portraits of Phillip II and Don Carlos, engraved on topaz in the collection of Royal Library of Paris.


The best topazes come chiefly from Brazil, more specifically, from the mines, called “Minas Geraes.” These gemstones are principally colorless and the locals called them “drops of water,” however, the Portuguese called them “slaves’ diamonds.” There is another location in Brazil called Villa Rica, where the topaz is mined in abundance. The topazes of deep brownish-yellow tint were obtained from these deposits. By the way, subsequently, exactly this color has acquired the highest value in jewelry.

The blue and green specimens were obtained in Tasmania. Fine pale-blue colored topazes were found in Karelia (Russia), near the city of Murmansk. Additionally, these gemstones were obtained in the US, Asia, Peru and England.

The Value of the Topaz

The value of the Topaz is incomparably low with regard to its esteems in the Middle Ages. Today, the most valuable specimens of this gemstone are used in cheap jewelry, while its inferior varieties are used in science (primarily in optic gadgets and microscopes) and even in swiss watch, although such valuable stone as the Sapphire has also been used for these purposes.

There are 3 types of the topazes:

1. Oriental Topaz
2. Brazilian Topaz
3. Occidental Topaz or so-called “Scotch Topaz”

The sufficient difference between these 3 varieties could be easily determined due to the fact that Oriental Topaz or so-called “Yellow Sapphire” is a hard mineral with a hardness of 9/10 (according to the Mohs scale of Hardness), while Brazilian Topaz and Scotch Topaz (indeed the Yellow Quartz) have a hardness index of 8/10 and 7/10, respectively.

It is useful to know, because it is the only way to distinguish the more valuable variety of Topaz from inferior ones. It is obvious, that the variety of the Topaz, which is possesses the much hardness, is the most valuable, therefore, buying topaz jewelry, try to request an information from the seller, where does these stones came from?

Magical and healing properties, attributed to Topaz

This gemstone was described in ancient sources as a remedy against the fever and melancholy. As the sources tell, the topaz powder dissolved in the wine could cure the fever during the 15 days, at the same time this stone treated boredom and withstand melancholy.

It was mentioned, that the influence of Topaz increases and decreases depending on the phases of the moon. This gemstone calms the passions and prevents nightmares.

Being in use as a medicinal remedy in the Middle Ages, the powder made of Topaz also helped to cure asthma and shortness of breath (dyspnea) if to drunk it in the form of liqueur. With regard to fever, Topaz was used being held under the tongue.

Of course, we should not be so serious, citing the medieval methods to cure the diseases, nonetheless the facts, provided above were represented in the reliable sources of XVII – XIX. These sources will be described in the article concerning the Scorpio Birthstone.

We don’t know for sure how those methods actually worked, but Albertus Magnus, Cardanus and even Thomas Nicols described them in their treatises.

June 23, 2018

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