Imperial Topaz is a beautiful, rare gemstone from a sole source near the Brazilian town of Ouro Preto. Imperial Topaz embodies a gem’s quintessential ideals: genuine rarity, breathtaking beauty and everyday durability; making it one of the world’s most coveted and valuable gemstones.
The ‘emperor’ of Topazes and one of the world’s most coveted rare gemstones, Imperial Topaz was named in honor of Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro and combines imperial (yellow-orange-pink) hues with a soft velvety brilliance. Another popular legend links this gem with the power of Imperial Russia; the name being apparently coined as a result of Brazilian Topaz decorating the jewelry of Tsarinas.
Imperial Topaz’s colors capture the golden glow of late afternoon, the reddish-yellow-orange of sunset and the pink of dawn’s first light. With nearly 90 percent of all gemstones red, blue or green, imperial hues are highly coveted.
Expert cutting is absolutely critical for all Topaz, but especially so for Imperial Topaz, the most valuable Topaz variety. Strongly dichroic (two-colors visible when viewed from different angles) with one color usually darker than the other, if Imperial Topaz is not correctly orientated its darker dichroic hue can collect at the ends of the finished gemstone resulting in an uneven color. Our Imperial Topaz is carefully orientated to maximize beauty (even color) and are finished eye-clean, the highest quality clarity grade for colored gemstones.
Imperial Topaz is also a gem of the night, looking great in low-light conditions due to its transparency and high refraction, displaying a distinct and attractive pinkish tint in candlelight (incandescent light).
One of the birthstones for November, Topaz’s name is either derived from the Sanskrit ‘tapaz’ (fire) or from the Greek ‘topazios’. A gem with an interesting history, if you were an ancient Egyptian you would have called Topaz the ‘gem of the sun’, believing its golden hues were colored by your sun god, Ra. As a Roman, its crystals were a gift from another sun god, Jupiter. In 19th century Russia, pretty Tsarina’s preferred Topaz’s pink and imperial hues, while baby boomers were the first to experience its beautiful blues.
Coming in a diverse array of gorgeous colors, Topaz has a unique crystal structure that makes it a hard and dense gemstone. Topaz’s blues, yellows and browns are the result of color centers, its reds and pinks are caused by chromium and its oranges are the result of chromium and/or color centers. With advances in modern enhancements, today’s gem market has a multitude of color choices for Topaz.
While Topaz is found in Burma, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, USA and the Ukraine, the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais (English: General Mines) remains the premier source. All Imperial Topaz is mined in Brazil and traditionally, only Brazilian gems are referred to as ‘Imperial Topaz’.
Our Imperial Topaz comes exclusively from a single mine, Mino do Capão (Portuguese: Big Lid Mine), located in the middle of the 290 square-kilometer Topaz deposit running in an east-west direction west of Ouro Preto. Open since the early 19th century, Mino do Capão only yields 12 kilograms of gem rough annually; international competition for a limited supply keeps prices high. Understandable given its rarity and value, Imperial Topaz is often cut to maximize rough yield, making calibrated gems suitable for jewelry exceedingly rare.
Mined directly from host rock, Mina do Capão is an open pit operation with two large pits, each carved over 70 meters into the hillside. The mine currently employs approximately 50 workers and is highly mechanized. Bulldozers are used to open the pits, and most initial sorting uses German-made hydraulic sluices and sieves, with some final sorting done by hand. The huge amount of water necessary for mining operations is drawn from a nearby lake.
Durability & Care
One of the world’s hardest gemstones (Mohs’ Hardness: 8), Imperial Topaz is a good choice for everyday jewelry. Always store Imperial Topaz carefully to avoid scuffs and scratches. Clean with gentle soap and lukewarm water, scrubbing behind the gem with a very soft toothbrush as necessary. After cleaning, pat dry with a soft towel or chamois cloth.