Two theories exist about the origin of the name topaz. The most widely accepted opinion is that this gemstone originated from the ancient Greek name of Topazios, island in the Red Sea. Today, this island is called Zabargad. It was long believed that this island was the source of topaz, but it was in fact mines of peridot, another beautiful crystal. For many years it was thought all gemstones with a nice yellowish colour were topaz, and so it was until the scientist finally determined its chemical composition. Some other scientists believe that the origin of the name can be found in the ancient Indian language, where the word topaz or Tapaz, means fire.
Its hardness is 8 on Mohs scale making it one of the hardest minerals in the gemstone world. These gemstones can be found in many different colours, but the most respected yellow stone with shades of wine, or saffron is considered the Indian topaz and called gold colours. Topaz can also be colourless, blue, orange, sometimes purple, pink to red and finally green. One of most beautiful colours is red - called cherry (or sherry) topaz. Topaz changes colour if heated, and the results of this process are very unpredictable, which means that the yellow topaz heating process can become colourless, and can also become blue or a purple colour cherry.
There are also trade names for this gem so we have Imperial Topaz or Royal topaz whose iridescent colours vary from red and orange to orange-red, and it is also among the most expensive topaz.
Sherry Topaz, as the name suggests, has the colour of sherry wine, which ranges from yellowish-brown to orange.
To jewellers in France genuine topaz is called "real topaz" or "noble topaz".
The largest deposits of topaz are located in Brazil and in the mines Minas Gerais and Esperito Santo. Sometimes just in Brazil one can find many beautiful specimens of colourless topaz to blue-green shades and these specimens are known as Pingos d'Aqua, which means water droplets. The biggest topaz was found in Brazil in 1984, which is called "El Dorado" and its weight was 6.2 kg. This gemstone is now part of the British Royal Collection.
Among other important sites are those in Burma, Sri Lanka, Australia, USA, Nigeria, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Russia with sources in the Urals and Transbajkalu. Light Blue topaz from the Urals is also known as Siberian topaz.
The most numerous are findings of blue and sherry topaz, while sources of royal, red, purple and pink are rare and limited.
Topaz suits those who were born in November, but a blue topaz in particular corresponds to the month of December.
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