November Birthstone: Topaz (ugh)
Color: Multiple: Yellowish orange to orangy red to Red, Yellow, Pink, Blue
Mohs Hardness: 8
November Babies: I have a confession to make. A gemologist, just like a mother, has to pretend to like all of the gemstones with equal enthusiasm and adoration, but this isn’t the case. I do not love all the rocks equally. Not even close.
There is one gemstone that has always made me sneer. Maybe it’s because she has perfect cleavage? Or maybe it’s because the color we think of when we think of her is something completely controlled by man (what gem lets herself be controlled by a man? Really!). I hate to say it, November Babies, but it’s true: I don’t like your main birthstone, Topaz. I don’t like her. She rubs me the wrong way.
Here’s why I dislike Topaz:
1) Fake Color:
The color we most frequently association with Topaz is blue. The Topaz blue that comes to mind is created with the use of heat treatment and irradiation. While blue topaz does occur naturally in very light tones, almost all blue topaz you see on the market is irradiated and heated to achieve a stable and consistent color.
In fact, it is possible to flip through a book of branded color names to collect the same topaz blue color time after time. Ever hear the term “London Blue Topaz” or “Swiss Blue Topaz”? Those are laboratory created colors that we see virtually everywhere we see Topaz.
Ok. Yes, the heating and irradiation are COMPLETELY stable and safe practices that are used and accepted throughout the industry, but that doesn’t mean I’m into it. I am decidedly not into the Fake News Blue of Topaz.
2) Slippery Personality:
Topaz is a pleochroic gemstone, which means that the intensity of the (FAKE) color you see will vary depending on the angle at which the gemstone is viewed.
Ok, second confession: I actually think pleochroism is a really cool thing that can happen naturally and magically in gems, but with Topaz, it feels like a lie.
Because I negated this point with my confession that pleochroism is actually cool, I am now going to rag on Topaz for its presence in costume jewelry with its abundant “Mystic Topaz”, which is Topaz that you will see featuring a oil-on-water prismatic rainbow effect that looks like plastic gemstone stickers you find on the bottom of your shoe after walking down the sidewalk. To achieve the disgusting iridescence of “Mystic Topaz”, a thin film of iridescent plastic is applied to the surface of the gemstone. This is NOT a stable treatment, as this film will come off over time. Yes, you will scratch this film. Yes, you will destroy your rainbow illusions. Your mystic hopes, dreams, and beauty of your gemstone will be dashed.
3) Perfect Cleavage:
Topaz has perfect cleavage. The perfect basal cleavage of Topaz means that when the crystal is struck at a right angle, it breaks in a clean plane parallel to the base of the crystal in which it grows. This makes it susceptible to breaks if cut and set with this angle exposed.
Ok, sure, other gemstones also have perfect cleavage, which can help in dividing and shaping gemstones, but with Topaz… well, I just think it’s rude for Topaz to think that its cleavage is “perfect” even if it is.
It’s an Original Eve Fact: November can do better than Topaz. In fact, it has done better with its other birthstone, Citrine, which I will discuss in a few days.
Put my completely bizarre visceral reaction to Topaz aside and please note that Topaz has exactly three benefits as a rock:
1) She’s hard (Mohs 8? That’s impressive).
2) She comes in many colors and provides options (Even if some of the colors are fake,
they are stable and will stay put throughout Topaz’ life).
The gem species topaz has many different hues, from golden yellow to salmon pink. The most valuable topaz is a naturally occurring deep orangy-red color sometimes referred to by the trade names "Imperial Topaz”. “Sherry Topaz” has an orange-brown to brownish-pink color. I like things that are “Imperial” and we definitely know I like “Sherry”, so Topaz gets a point.
3) The name “Topaz” is believed to have come from the island in the Red Sea called “Topazos”, which is today called Zabargad. And this is cool because I saw my first octopus in the Red Sea… [this was a stretch for me, too]
If I have convinced you to be hostile towards Topaz too, just wait for Citrine, November Babies!