Primarily known for its vast variety of colors, Topaz is a beloved, but often-misunderstood stone. In fact, the name “topaz” comes from the Greek name “Topazios.” Topazios is a small island in the Red Sea and although numerous gemstones were found there, topaz was not one of them. The stone actually discovered there was peridot. Ancient explorers unwittingly confused peridot’s gentle green hues with the shimmering yellow of topaz. However, the explorer’s accidental misnaming is not the only historical mix-up regarding the stone.
In 1740, a 1,680 carat “diamond” was discovered in Brazil. At the time, it was believed to be the largest diamond ever found. Because of this, it was quickly set in the Portuguese crown to serve as a visual reminder of the ruler’s power and wealth. Shortly after, it was exposed that the “diamond” was actually colorless topaz. Despite the mix up, the Portuguese crown is still proudly displayed to this day.
Long before Europe’s appreciation of topaz as a symbol of status and wealth, topaz was renowned as a stone with healing properties. The Ancient Egyptians believed the sun god, Ra, created topaz’s beautiful yellow hues. As a result, the stone was believed to possess multiple healing properties that would protect the stone’s owner. Although the Ancient Romans did not share the Egyptians belief regarding Ra, they did believe that the stone could protect from poison. Popular Ancient Roman myth held that if topaz was near poisoned food or drink it would change color and thus alert the stone’s wearer to the danger.
Today, topaz is believed to provide protection from colds and insomnia. However, some people believe that the mystical properties of the stone can only help those whose birthstone is topaz. Luckily, topaz is the birthstone for two months. Unlike some other gemstones, topaz is formed in a variety of colors including red, orange, yellow, brown, and blue. The unique shade of “imperial topaz,” or light yellow, is the birthstone for November and the blue topaz is the stone for December. Regardless of birth month, topaz is a stone to be enjoyed and showcased for its beauty.
Although the majority of modern day mining for topaz occurs in Brazil, the beautiful stone is also found in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Russia. Topaz has a long history as an often-misunderstood stone, but has proven to be a gemstone that stands the test of time and can make a timeless addition to any jewelry collection.