Topaz Quality Factors

Uniquely Cut Topaz
Blue topaz makes a perfect gem material for artistic carvings. - Lydia Dyer, courtesy of John Dyer & Co.
Red is one of the most sought-after topaz colors and represents less than one-half of 1 percent of facet-grade material found. The color the trade calls imperial topaz is highly prized and very rare. Many dealers insist that a stone must show a reddish pleochroic color to be called imperial topaz. The reddish pleochroic color often appears at the ends of fashioned gems—like pears and ovals—that have an otherwise yellow-to-orange bodycolor.

Highly Prized Imperial Topaz
Imperial is one of the most highly prized topaz colors, as seen in this spectacular prize-winning, orangy-red, flame-shaped gem. - Gem courtesy of John Dyer & Co.
A fashioned topaz that displays a combination of two colors is called bicolor topaz. Some say that pink topaz, often called rose topaz, resembles a pink diamond or a bright pink sapphire. Pink topaz has certain advantages over these two gems. It’s much less expensive than pink diamond, and it’s often available in larger sizes than either diamond or sapphire.

Dealers often use the trade term “sherry topaz” for yellowish brown or brownish yellow to orange topaz. The term comes from the color of sherry wine. Stones in that color range are also sometimes called precious topaz. This helps distinguish them from less expensive citrine and smoky quartz, both of which look similar to, and are frequently misrepresented as, topaz.

Golden or yellow topaz lacks the prized red overtones of imperial topaz. It’s also much more abundant and therefore less valuable. Although brown topaz is also less valuable, it has been used in striking pieces of jewelry and ornamental art.

In nature, topaz is most commonly colorless, and naturally strong blue gems are extremely rare. In the marketplace, however, strong blue shades are plentiful. Treatments are the reason for this. Treaters use a combination of radiation and heat to produce blue hues in topaz. Since the 1970s, treatments have brought blue topaz to a broad market.

Blue Topaz
Irradiation and heat treatment transform colorless topaz to various shades of blue. Starting in the 1970s, treatment created a huge market for inexpensive blue topaz. - © GIA & Tino Hammid
When it was first introduced to the market, treated blue topaz sold for $20 to $40 per carat. But oversupply led to huge drops in wholesale prices, down to a few dollars or less per carat. Today, blue topaz is basically a mass-market gem, and price is often the most important consideration for many buyers. Uniformity of color and cut is also important, especially for mass-market jewelry manufacturers.

Treated Blue Topaz
The nature of the starting material and the type of treatment determine the blue that results. These treated topaz stones, weighing from 2.72 carats to 7.86 carats, show a range of hue, tone, and saturation. - Courtesy Chuck Ashbaugh
Fashioned topaz gems are often free of visible inclusions or flaws. This especially true of blue, colorless, and yellow topaz.

12.25-carat Untreated Topaz
This ring, designed by Maria Canale, holds a 12.25-carat untreated topaz from Brazil. The gem has no visible inclusions. - Courtesy Richard Krementz Gemstones
Because topaz crystals are usually elongated or columnar, they’re often cut as long oval or pear shapes to improve yield. If the rough is strongly colored, the cutter often chooses the emerald cut because that cutting style maximizes color and retains the most weight.

Topaz is cut in a wide variety of shapes and cutting styles. Production includes all the standard gem shapes such as ovals, pears, rounds, cushions, triangles, marquise, and emerald cuts as well as designer-inspired fantasy shapes.

14.68-carat Topaz
A modern mixed cutting style dramatically intensifies the color of this 14.68-carat bright blue topaz. - Lydia Dyer, Topaz StarBrite courtesy of John Dyer & Co.
Cutting styles are also well represented. Brilliant cuts with triangular and kite-shaped facets, step cuts with concentric rows of parallel facets, and mixed cuts usually consisting of brilliant-cut crowns and step-cut pavilions are all common. Designer cuts fashioned by hand and machine are popular, too.

Treated Blue Topaz
The uniform color of treated blue topaz makes it a highly suitable material for cutting into standard sizes for jewelry.
Because there is an abundant supply of treated blue topaz, it’s often cut into calibrated sizes for use in mass market and multi-stone jewelry.

Carat Weight
Standard topaz cuts for the jewelry industry include a wide range of shapes and sizes. The gem is inexpensive in smaller sizes, but prices rise for gems above 10×8 mm.

61.78-carat Carved Topaz
This 61.78-carat carved topaz is a truly unique sculptural piece. Skilled workmanship intensifies the blue color to produce an effect like shimmering droplets of water. Blue topaz makes a perfect material for large carvings due to availability in large sizes. - Lydia Dyer, Blue Topaz Sculptural Gem courtesy of John Dyer & Co.