Topaz History and Lore

97.45-carat Imperial Topaz
The 97.45-carat Blaze Imperial Topaz is in the collection of the Field Museum of Natural History. - Courtesy "Gems and Gemstones: Timeless Natural Beauty of the Mineral World" by Grande & Augustyn, U of Chicago Press.
Most authorities agree that the name topaz comes from Topazios, the old Greek name for a small island in the Red Sea, now called Zabargad. (The island never produced topaz, but it was once a source of peridot, which was confused with topaz before the development of modern mineralogy.) Some scholars trace the origin back to Sanskrit (an ancient language of India) and the word topas or tapaz, meaning “fire.”
The ancient Greeks believed that topaz gave them strength. In Europe during the Renaissance (the period from the 1300s to the 1600s) people thought that topaz could break magic spells and dispel anger. For centuries, many people in India have believed that topaz worn above the heart assures long life, beauty, and intelligence.
The name for imperial topaz originated in nineteenth-century Russia. At the time, the Ural Mountains were topaz’s leading source, and the pink gemstone mined there was named to honor the Russian czar. Ownership of the gem was restricted to the royal family.
Today, topaz is one of the US birthstones for November. The other is citrine quartz.

Learn More About Topaz

Explore topaz history, research, quality factors, and more in the GIA Gem Encyclopedia.
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