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November birthstone: Topaz

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Though the weather is turning dull and grey, November babies can rejoice in the rainbow of colours their November birthstone, topaz, offers.  Did you know, though, that the popular ‘Swiss blue’ or ‘London blue‘ colour you’ll see in the jeweller’s shop window is almost always caused by heat treatment and doesn’t often occur naturally?

November birthstone Topaz |

Occurring as a colourless stone as well as in shades of pink, purple, yellow, brown, orange, green and blue, Topaz is allochromatic.  Allo-what?  Well, allochromatic means that the colour variations are caused by impurities or defects in its chemical structure. 

Topaz, is also pleochroic, which means that it will display different colours when its crystal structure is observed from different angles. This pleochroism is especially true of the pink to red topaz as seen in this GIA video.

Of all the colours, the most expensive is referred to as Imperial Topaz. This whisky-coloured stone with hints of pink is now mined in Brazil, but was originally mined in Russia’s Ural Mountains and named in honour of the Russian royal family.

At that time, Imperial Topaz was so prized that only the Russian royals were allowed to own it.

Topaz is so called because of a tiny island in the Red Sea. Now called Zabargad, in ancient times it was known as Topazios and famed for the gemstone…erm, peridot. Wait, what? Rather confusingly, the ancients thought that peridot and topaz were one and the same. It wasn’t until the early 18th century that topaz and peridot were distinguished from each other.

As well as being a November birthstone, topaz is also used to ease many mental and physical ills.  When worn as a necklace, topaz was believed to dispel enchantment, bring wisdom and chase away depression.  The ancient Greeks thought it could increase strength on the battlefield, detect poisons and even turn its wearer invisible.  Mixed with wine, topaz was considered a cure for burns, haemorrhages, insomnia and respiratory difficulties—perfect for those winter coughs and colds! 

Photo credit: 17.01ct Brazilian Imperial Topaz and diamond bangle bracelet featuring bezel set Burma rubies on sides as accent gems. Bracelet is crafted in 18kt yellow gold and designed by Shelly Sergent for Somewhere In The Rainbow Collection. Crafted by Seam Ryan.

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