Topaz

Topaz occurs in a range of different colors: deep golden yellow topaz (sometimes called sherry topaz) and pink topaz are the most valuable; blue and green stones are also popular. Natural pink stones are rare - most pink topaz is heat-treated yellow material. Much colourless topaz is irradiated and heat-treated to a range of blues, some almost indistinguishable from aquamarine when seen with the naked eye. Some topaz has tear-shaped cavities, containing a gas bubble or several immiscible (non-mixing) liquids. Other inclusions such as cracks, streaks, and veils also occur. Prismatic topaz crystals have a characteristic lozenge-shaped cross-section and striations parallel to their length. Topaz has one perfect cleavage.

Topaz occurs in igneous rocks such as pegmatites, granites, and volcanic lavas. It may also be found in alluvial deposits as waterworn pebbles. Localities include Brazil, United States, Sri Lanka, Burma, the former USSR, Australia, Tasmania, Pakistan, Mexico, Japan and Africa. Brazil, Pakistan and Russia are sources of pink topaz.

In the 17th century the Braganza diamond (1,640 carats) in the Portuguese crown was thought to be the largest diamond ever found. This was never confirmed and it is now believed to have been a colorless topaz. The name "topaz" is thought to be derived from the Sanskrit word "tapas", meaning fire.

Topaz Pictures

Topaz rings

Topaz Properties

Chemical Composition: 
Fluorosilicate of aluminium - Al2SiO4(F,OH)2 + Cr, Mn, Vn.
Classification / Type: 
Topaz contains fluorine and / or hydroxyl in the structure. The presence of fluorine increases the S.G. and lowers the R.I., while the presence of hydroxyl lowers the S.G. and increases the R.I.
Colors / Varieties: 
Colorless, white, gray, blue, greenish-yellow, yellow, yellow-brown, orange, pink, red. Chatoyant variety (rare).
Crystal System / Forms: 
Orthorhombic System / Prismatic, Combination of forms, massive, granular, as rolled pebbles.
Hardness: 
8
Specific Gravity: 
  • Pink / Yellow: 3.53 - 3.56
  • Blue / Colorless: 3.56 / 3.57
Cleavage / Fracture: 
Perfect 1 directional basal / Conchoidal fracture.
Optic Character: 
Anisotropic, D.R.; Biaxial Positive.
Lustre: 
Vitreous.
Refractive Index / Birefringence: 
  • Pink / Yellow / Brown: 1.629 - 1.637 / 0.008
  • Blue / Colorless / Green: 1.609 - 1.617 / 0.008
Pleochroism: 
Trichroic; varies with color.
Dispersion: 
0.014
Magnification: 
2 phase inclusions, 2 non miscible liquids, may show 3 phase inclusions or rhomb like etch markings.
U.V. Fluorescence: 
Variable
Spectrum: 
Not characteristic. Heated pink gives Cr spectrum at 682nm
Cause of Color: 
  • Pink, Red - Chromium
  • Orange - Chromium and color centers
  • Blue, yellow, brown - color centers
Treatment (Enhancement): 
  • Coating: a thin film of gold is coasted over the surface of a colorless topaz to give a blue color. (Aqua Aura)
  • Heat treatment: some yellow, orange, brown to pink known as pinking process.
  • Irradiation to change light color topaz to deep brown to deep blue. By gamma rays in linear accelerators gives sky blue color, in nuclear reactors gives London blue color and with combination of linear accelerators and nuclear reactors gives Swiss blue and American blue color.
Specific Tests: 
Easy cleavage may cause crackling when exposed to heat or excessive friction.
Simulants (with separation tests): 
  • Blue Topaz: Aquamarine (optic figure, R.I., S.G., inclusions), Glass (optic character), Synthetic Spinel (optic character), Barite (S.G., lustre, hardness), Synthetic Quartz (optic figure, R.I., S.G.), Apatite (optic figure, R.I., birefringence, inclusions).
  • Yellow Topaz: Citrine (optic figure, R.I., S.G., inclusions), Yellow Beryl (optic figure, R.I., S.G., inclusions), Synthetic Sapphire (optic figure, R.I., S.G), Glass (optic character), Apatite (optic figure, R.I., birefringence, inclusions), Danburite (S.G.)
Geological Occurrence: 
In pegmatite and high temperature quartz veins, in alluvial deposits as pebbles.
Sources: 
Brazil, Mexico, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, etc.
Cuts & Uses: 
Facetted, cabochon, beads, carvings, etc.