The Art Medium Topaz

Pure topaz is colorless silicate aluminum yet it is often found in various colors which are influenced by the presence of other minerals during its formation. Revered since ancient times, topaz is still celebrated today and is associated with the month of November as its traditional birthstone. Scoring an 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness, topaz is ideal for use in jewelry not only because of its beauty but also its durability. As the stone frequently boasts large crystal formations, it can be found in large examples and cabochons for use as a focal piece in rings, necklaces, bracelets, and more.

Topaz comes in a wide array of colors. Aside from pure colorless topaz, the gem can be found in shades of pink, orange, yellow, violet, gold, brown, and blue. Some stones may reflect various colors like gold with undertones of brown. Today these natural colors may be heated or treated in some way to enhance the color, but the ancients had access to topaz in these multiple shades. Today, like many gems, topaz is valued based on its color, clarity, cut, and carat. Topaz is found in many parts of the world including regions of Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria, Afghanistan, Norway, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, and even the U.S. in states like Utah and Texas.

Like other precious gems, topaz is associated with many ancient and folkloric beliefs. During the medieval period, Europeans believed that wearing a topaz amulet could cure multiple ills or disorders. The ancient Romans thought that topaz enhanced eye health while the Greeks of antiquity honored the stone for its ability to promote strength and even the power of invisibility! In more recent times, bright orange-pink topaz examples were celebrated by Russian tsars who featured them prominently in jewels and precious trinkets.

Today’s gem-cutters apply facets and various shapes to natural topaz to achieve their designs. Like many other gems, the stones are set in multiple jewel types or features alongside other precious gemstones for effect. For some designs, topaz might even be carved or provided with an alternative type of cut–a fan-shape for instance. On the other hand, emerald cut, radiant cut, and other popular cuts of the modern age are easily applied to topaz by professional gem cutters. Some colors like blue, for instance, render the gem more valuable than less rare shades like brown. Today’s jewelers and artisan jewelry designers regularly feature topaz jewels in their collections. As a precious gem, this stone has remained a regularly used art medium since the ancient period.