THE STONE OF FIRE
Topaz is November’s primary birthstone. It holds one of the most confusing histories of any of today’s popular gems. Though topaz has been known since antiquity, it has suffered from considerable misidentification since ancient times, most often being confused with citrine, the alternative November birthstone.
Topaz was found on an island in the Mediterranean called Topazios in ancient times. The most common topaz colors are brown, yellow, yellow-gold, and orange, all very similar to the shades of citrine. The finest reddish orange topaz, called imperial topaz, can resemble exceptional sapphires.
Even with this confusion, topaz has accumulated an impressive body of alleged healing properties. Topaz is reputed to increase understanding, strengthen breathing, prevent colds, enhance creativity, bring relaxation, control angry passions, restore energy, and aid in tissue regeneration. Topaz was often used to promote wisdom in its wearer, which may explain the medieval custom of giving topaz rings to heads of state, diplomats, and royalty.
Blue topaz is the fourth anniversary gemstone, and imperial topaz is the gemstone for 23rd wedding anniversaries. Nature rarely produces a blue topaz. However, in the 20th century, due to safe enhancement technology, blue topaz has become available and a popular gemstone for jewelry. Most blue topaz is colorless topaz that has been irradiated and heat treated to produce its blue color. The blue color created by this treatment process is permanent and stable.
Topaz can be delicate and requires special care to avoid breaking under rough wear. Look for jewelry with mountings that protect the topaz, so that it’s less likely to break if dropped or hit. Warm, soapy water is the best way to clean topaz jewelry.