Warm up to the Icy Blues: December’s Birthstone, Blue Topaz
The birthstone of December and gemstone for Sagittarius, the cool blue topaz is a gorgeous addition to the icy weather. This vibrant gemstone also adds brightness to a 4th, 19th or 23rd anniversary celebration.
WHY IS TOPAZ BLUE?
Pure topaz is colourless and allochromatic, meaning chemical impurities or defects in its crystal structure cause a range of colour possibilities. December’s blue shade is one of the rarest occurring in nature—and when it is found, it’s typically quite pale.
Most blue topaz that you see in fine jewellery is colourless topaz that has been irradiated and heat treated to create the richness of colour. This treatment of the gem results in three common colours; a pale aquamarine Sky Blue, vivid Swiss Blue and deep ocean London Blue topaz. Topaz is extra special because it’s pleochroic, meaning it can display different tones of colour from different angles and under different types of light.
Topaz is thought to be named either from the Greek topazios, for a small island in the Red Sea now called Zabargad, or after the Sanskrit tapas meaning “fire”, arguably be attributed to the gem’s brilliance.
THE HISTORY AND LEGEND OF TOPAZ
Ancient Egyptians used the abundant topaz as a protective amulet to decorate armor. Today, its primary source is Brazil, though it’s also plentiful in Sri Lanka, Australia, Mexico and parts of Africa.
Blue topaz was popular with European kings and queens in the Middle Ages because its rarity and high price ensured royal exclusivity. Medieval societies also prized topaz because they believed it could heal physical and mental disorders and even prevent death. Greeks thought it had the power to increase one’s strength and even make wearers invisible, while Romans credited topaz as having the power to improve eyesight.
Topaz continues to entice those interested in modern mysticism. It’s reputed to stimulate self-confidence and clarity, and strengthen focus. Give blue topaz to a musician, dancer, or artist who could use its purported powers to encourage creative energy. Have an avid traveler in your life? Topaz lore reads that it could protect against bad health and negative energy in their journeys. The calming effects of topaz are also said to soothe hot tempers and even temper insanity.
THE GEMMOLOGY OF TOPAZ
Topaz is the hardest silicate material on Earth and it has long been a favourite for jewellery due to its hardness rating of 8 on the Mohs hardness scale. Diamond, corundum (sapphires and rubies) and chrysoberyl are the only other minerals that are harder.
Some of the largest crystals in the gemstone world are topaz—so big that they’re often measured in kilos rather than carats. A transparent topaz crystal discovered in Brazil weighed in at an astounding 271 kilos (596 lbs.)
HOW TO CARE FOR TOPAZ JEWELLERY
If you’re looking for some stunning, deep blue gemstone jewellery, topaz is an economical alternative to sapphires but it does require some special care. Always clean your topaz jewellery with warm, soapy water. Avoid ultrasound cleaning and heat, which may change or diminish colour.