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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Topaz

Topaz from San Luis Potosi, Mexico
Photo by Ken Larsen. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH G10681-00
Locality San Luis Potosí, Mexico
Weight 8.87 ct

Gift of Minera Y Metales De Mexico in 2011.

Until the 1950s, topaz was known almost exclusively as a yellow to golden gemstone. A common mistake has been that all yellow stones were topaz and that topaz was always yellow. Unfortunately citrine quartz and even smoky quartz are sometimes sold under the misnomer of topaz. This confusion dates to antiquity when all yellow stones were called topaz. Since the 1950s, the routine radiation and heat treatment of pale-colored topaz to turn it shades of blue has changed the public’s perception of this gem. To most of the present generation of jewelry buyers, topaz is recognized primarily as an affordable blue gemstone. The highly prized “imperial topaz” is an intense golden to reddish-orange color and is found primarily in Ouro Preto, Brazil. Pink or red stones are rare and can be produced by heating the golden brown topaz from Ouro Preto. More commonly, topaz is colorless to pale blue or yellow. This topaz from San Luis Potosi, Mexico is a beautiful brownish-yellow and is natural in color with no treatment of any kind. The topaz from this area ranges in color from golden yellow to orange, red, pink and brown. This 8.87 carat pear-shaped gem is the first topaz in the collection from this locality. An extensive display of topaz gems and crystals is on exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History.


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