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Topaz: Worth Having?

Posted by Yvonne Raley on

Topaz is one of the birthstones of November, aside from Citrine.  But it has kind of gotten a bad rep in the gem world.  Most of it is deserved, too.   Next to the quartz varieties, white topaz is pretty much the most readily available gemstone material in the world.  It comes in large clumps, with wholesale per carat prices starting as low as 99 cents.  Beware of the trade name “smoky topaz” which refers to smoky quartz and is a different mineral entirely.

Virtually all topaz, except the colorless, or white, variety, is treated in some way.  Swiss and sky blue topaz are heat treated, London Blue topaz is irradiated, all the mystic varieties and pink topaz are surface coated.  The names are now largely trade names, signifying how the topaz has been treated to achieve that particular color.  The markup of up to $8.00 wholesale per carat for London Blue is largely due to the cost of the treatment, and to nice cutting jobs.  If you ask a gem seller if Swiss or Sky blue topaz is treated, he or she will probably laugh at you because you’ve just evidenced that you don’t know anything about gems.
Why London Blue topaz is sought after by jewelry fans is a mystery to the jewelry industry.  But perhaps it’s just a result of great marketing.  The color is very nice, too.  I don’t carry it, though.
Natural Topaz Necklace
So is there any topaz that’s worth something? Yes.  It’s called “Precious Topaz.”  I know of three kinds:  natural (brown) topaz, natural pink topaz, and imperial topaz.  All three occur naturally, and all three are much more rare than white.  Natural brown topaz is a tad brownish in color.  I knew someone who had a parcel last year.  I still have one stone from it (in the necklace below), and now he parcel is gone and no material like it has surfaced again on my horizon.  Natural topaz is not that expensive though.
Natural pink topaz is baby pink in color (darker pinks are extremely rare).  I see natural pink topaz on occasion.  Imperial topaz is orange to salmon or peachy color, with the more orange valued below the peachy tone.  I’ve seen pink and imperial topaz sold for up to $100 per carat on 47th Street for the smaller stuff (below half a carat).  At that price, of course the material should be sparkly clean and free from inclusions.  The peachy tone is the most expensive, after that the pinks, then the more orange stuff.  Some of the large stuff can actually trade way above that.
Natural Pink and Imperial Topaz
To my knowledge, there’s no particular pedigree when it comes to origin of precious topaz.  The largest producing mines are in Brazil, and that’s where most precious topaz has been found, but topaz comes from many other places as well: Nigeria, Russia, the U.S., Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Pakistan and Mexico, to name a few.
I own only a little bit of precious topaz, just the ones in the pictures above.  The two matching baguettes are now set as earrings, the other two pieces are up for grabs if you are interested.  I haven’t priced them but they don’t weigh more than half a carat I think.  I got the pink round in Germany from a cutter who was “cleaning out.”  When I saw the piece I was already aware that the trading price was higher than what his tag indicated, so I snatched it.  The rectangular cushion and the tourmaline cuts are from my friend D., who has a very tiny parcel.  There’s no other cushion cut, though.

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