The Ultimate Guide to Topaz Colors


The Ultimate Guide to Topaz Colors

What do "a mermaid's arms," "congealed honey," "wine," "tranquility," and "solitary things" have in common? Interestingly, they're all things that Chilean poet Pablo Neruda compares to topaz. Readers often struggle to understand his topaz metaphors, but most of them aren't familiar with how many different mesmerizing colors of topaz there are.

Topaz colors range from crystal clear diamond white to peachy orange sunset shades, grassy greens, blazing reds, sky blues, and everything in between. It's no wonder Neruda found them to be the perfect metaphorical symbol. Each color has its own special meaning, and some colors are much rarer than others.

The Complete Guide to Topaz Colors

Whether you're interested in buying topaz jewelry or wish to expand your knowledge of gemstones, learning about the different topaz varieties is fascinating.

Topaz is referenced in the Bible, Ancient Egyptian stories, Greek/Roman histories, and Medieval texts, but people used the term to describe various yellow gems. It wasn't until the 1700s century that scientists could distinguish topaz's properties from other gems, and correctly identify topaz.

We've compiled an informative guide on the types of topaz colors, their properties, and rarity. Unlike the Greek historians, you'll be able to describe the difference between topaz and other similar-colored gemstones. You might even be able to help out poetry students decipher Neruda's metaphors.

What Is the True Color of Topaz?

Natural topaz is colorless, like corundum (what sapphires and rubies are made of). The wide range of colors in corundum and true topaz colors come from natural trace elements, impurities, and crystal structures. Some topaz color varieties come from selective processes created by the gemstone industry.

Properties of Topaz

Topaz has a hardness of 8 on the Mohs scale, placing it behind diamonds (10) as well as rubies and sapphires (9), and just above emeralds (7.5-8), tourmaline (7-7.5), and citrine (7). Anything above 7 on the Mohs scale is considered pretty durable, since harder than quartz (which is present in sand and dust and can scratch softer minerals).

Topaz is one of the gems that has perfect cleavage, meaning that it can be prone to chipping or forming flaws when knocked against something. Good jewelers know how to cut and facet topaz in a way that prevents it from cleaving.

Topaz is generally a naturally eye-clean gem, so many topaz gems offer good clarity.

Optical Effects

Some varieties of topaz are pleochroic, meaning that the gem can show different colors in different crystal directions.

Irradiated topaz and natural blue topaz are often photoluminescent, which gives them a slight glow in the sunlight. Most blue topaz gems are irradiated to enhance their optical properties and produce the color since natural blue topaz is very rare. Diamonds are also often irradiated to produce yellow, blue-green, or green colors.

Other topaz colors, such as sherry-brown, golden yellow, and pink sometimes show strong fluorescence that's orange-yellow under long-wavelength UV light.

What Is the Rarest Topaz Color?

The most common answer to this question you'll find online is "imperial topaz." This is the trade name for topaz that comes in a range of orange, peach, and pink shades. Many dealers are more specific, stating that only a reddish topaz variety with pleochroism should be called imperial topaz.


In addition, some dealers State that imperial topaz only comes from Ouro Prêto in Brazil. Miners have extracted imperial from this location for over 200 years.

Imperial topaz commands higher prices than other forms of topaz, and it's rare in the topaz market.

In nature, however, two colors can be considered the rarest: blue and a vivid purplish pink. Blue topaz is common on the market, but true, natural blue topaz is extremely rare in nature.

Blue Topaz


Most topaz that you find on jewelry and gem websites for sale is natural clear topaz that has been irradiated to produce the color. Naturally-occurring vivid blue topaz is extremely rare. Lighter shades of natural blue topaz are less expensive, though the heat-treated blue topaz is one of the most inexpensive options.

Rarity and Value

Due to the rarity of natural blue topaz, gem experts and consumers accept treated blue topaz more readily than treated sapphires or rubies.

Despite being one of the rarest natural colors of topaz, natural blue topaz is more affordable now than in the past, due to the influx of heat-treated and irradiated blue varieties on the market.

The most important factors determining the value of blue topaz are its hue and cut. Natural vivid blue topaz is extremely rare, and even though it doesn't command as much as it used to, it's still one of the more valuable varieties of topaz. Natural, vivid blue specimens are highly sought amongst gemstone aficionados, especially those with excellent clarity and beautifully faceted cuts.

Fun Facts and Meaning

Blue topaz is often associated with loyalty and love, creativity, and mental clarity. It also represents emotional attachment and honesty. Topaz is a popular anniversary gemstone.

Blue topaz became the official state gem of Texas in 1969 when rare natural blue topaz of a paler variety was discovered in Mason County (its only location in Texas). There is a specific cut for this state gem, called "the Lone Star cut" which reflects a star with five points. This became the official state gemstone cut of Texas in 1977.

Blue topaz is a popular choice for celebrities to wear to special events. Catherine Middleton often wears a pair of blue topaz and diamond drop earrings. Cate Blanchett, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, and Katy Perry have also worn blue topaz to award ceremonies.

White Topaz


Also known as colorless topaz, silver topaz or clear topaz, this is the most common natural variety of topaz.

White topaz makes a good alternative to diamonds, and sometimes people have mistaken them for diamonds, although they have less brilliance and hardness.

Rarity and Value

Clear topaz is the most common variety of topaz gemstone, so it isn't extremely high in demand. The most valuable specimens of white topaz are ones of high carats, high clarity, and remarkable cuts.

One of the most interesting varieties of white topaz is called rutilated topaz. This form of topaz includes needle-like inclusions of a yellow mineral. This mineral is called limonite, making the term "rutilated" topaz a misnomer; true rutilation, such as that you find in rutilated quartz, comes from the mineral rutile.

Fun Facts and Meaning

Clear topaz symbolizes positive intentions, confidence, and ambition.

The Portuguese call the colorless variety of topaz "pingos d ‘água," or "drops of water."

In his poem, “Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks" Neruda compares a mermaid's arms to white topaz.

Yellow Topaz


Yellow topaz is the traditional color associated with topaz gems. In ancient times, many yellow gemstones were called "topaz" even though they were actually varieties of quartz or zircon.

Even today, natural yellow citrine is sometimes falsely labeled "topaz."

Rarity and Value

Yellow topaz is one of the more expensive topaz colors since bright yellow topaz stones are rare.

Yellow topaz is desirable amongst people with November birthdays (golden yellow is the official November birthstone color). It's also more affordable than yellow diamonds.

Fun Facts and Meaning

Since ancient Greek society, topaz has been a symbol of physical and mental strength. It also represents empathy, serenity, and warmth.

Egyptians believed that yellow topaz was the stone of Ra, the Sun God. They wore the amulets with the gem to gain his favor and protection.

Topaz is also mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Some of the finest specimens of yellow topaz come from Scotland's Central Highlands. Another valuable type of yellow topaz, called the Schneckenstein variety, comes from Germany. It has a pale yellow hue and is popular amongst British jewelry fanatics.

Pink Topaz


Pink topaz is one of the rarest of true topaz colors. It can range from a brownish-champagne pink to a peachy-orange pink, to a light vivid pink similar to pink sapphire.

One of the trade names for the peach variety of pink topaz is "imperial topaz." The brownish, champagne variety is called "sherry topaz."

Rarity and Value

Of all the varieties of topaz, shades of pink topaz are typically the most valuable. Pink topaz is about as rare as natural blue topaz, with the vivid purplish-pink varieties being the rarest of all.

Smaller-carat pink topaz gems can go for $200-$300 per carat, while larger specimens can fetch up to $5,000 per carat.

Fun Facts and Meaning

Pink topaz symbolizes hope and positive change. It also represents generosity and creativity.

Topaz is the state gem of Utah, which is home to Topaz Mountain, named for its abundance of sherry topaz gems. Topaz varieties from the United States are usually more roughly formed and course, so they require specialized cuts and polishing. The other most popular sources of topaz in the United States are Pikes Peak in Colorado, and San Diego County, California.

Other Natural Topaz Colors

Red-orange and darker red shades of topaz are also sometimes sold under the name "imperial topaz," with similar values to pink topaz. The spectrum of red and pink stones is about equally rare in nature and of similar value.

Red topaz is not quite as popular as rubies, which makes the gem a bit less in-demand, despite its rarity.

Green topaz is not particularly popular or easy to find; blue-green shades are rarer than yellow-green topaz. You can find these shades of topaz more frequently as gems in the rough than cut for jewelry.

Some varieties of topaz are enhanced to create unique colors. One of the most popular is mystic topaz.

Mystic Topaz


When wearing topaz jewelry, the variety that is perhaps the most eye-catching is mystic topaz. Known for its iridescence, mystic topaz is a natural white topaz that has undergone treatment where a fine mist of titanium gets sprayed on its surface.

This surface gives the stone a stunning display of kaleidoscope colors but requires more careful treatment to avoid scratching the coating.

Another popular variety of enhanced topaz is Azotic topaz, an orange-pink topaz with a rainbow effect. This variety is created by a film deposition of a thin metallic layer.

Who knows what kinds of metaphors Neruda would create in his poetry if these topaz varieties existed in his time.

Rarity and Value

Because mystic topaz comes from clear topaz, it isn't particularly rare. It's also a pretty affordable variety of topaz, making it a great option for people who want fun and dazzling jewelry.

Its affordability makes it popular as a statement ring, as well as an engagement ring amongst people who want to steer away from tradition.

Fun Facts and Meaning

Some people associate mystic topaz with freedom, individuality, and creativity. The gem variety is also associated with feminism since it came out while women's rights were rising in the spotlight.

Mystic Topaz first made its debut in 1998 at the Hong Kong Jewelry Fair. People were amazed by its appearance and in awe of the new process behind it.

Sometimes people mistake mystic topaz for alexandrite, the gemstone most people know for its color-change properties!

Bring the Pizazz with Topaz

The many varieties of topaz colors mean that it's a gemstone that will never cease to amaze. As nontraditional engagement rings become more in-vogue, it wouldn't be surprising if even varieties such as the naturally beautiful rutilated topaz, or the marvelously enhanced mystic topaz gain more popularity.

Hopefully, this guide gave you a better understanding of topaz colors. Maybe you're looking at adding an affordable topaz ring to your jewelry collection. For more information on gemstones, including colors, care, and buying guides, check out our blog.

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