The Yellow Topaz is oftentimes confused with its less-expensive cousin, the citrine, also a yellow stone. Yellow topaz has been around for centuries. Its golden brown to yellow color has long been a favorite for use in jewelry.
Gem quality topaz has been found in several places around the world, including Brazil, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Russia, Burma, Pakistan, the United States and Mexico. The premier source of the gem is found near Ouro PrÍto in Brazil's Minas Gerais state, but all the areas where the gem is found were known to gem prospectors working the region as far back as 1730.
During Portuguese administration, in the late 1800s, many stone building with tile roofs were constructed. The Liberty Pantheon and the Governor's Palace were amongst them and the latter is now a museum that houses 25,000-specimens of Brazilian gemstones, crystals, and minerals.
The name "imperial topaz" is said to have originated in the 19th century in Russia, where the Ural Mountain mines were an important source. Some sources indicate that, pink topaz from those mines was restricted to the family of the Czar, hence the name "imperial." Today, Imperial Topaz is generally used to describe pink, orange and red topaz, which comes mainly from Ouro PrÍto, Brazil.
Yellow topaz (and its brothers and sisters in other colors) is the hardest silicate mineral and one of the hardest minerals in nature. It weighs in as 8 on Mohs' scale of hardness. Topaz crystals are shaped as prisms that measure from 5 to 3 centimeters. But, some specimens have weighted in at several hundreds pounds. Topaz may be colorless, yellow, orange, red, blue and green.
Most natural topaz is colorless or very pale blue; the dark blue color so commonly seen today is produced by irradiation, usually followed by heating. The only true variant of topaz is Imperial Topaz, which connotes a vivid reddish-orange.
Imitated, but never reproduced, Topaz has never been synthesized, but there are lots of look-alikes in the market, including natural stones like citrine and smoky quartz, and man-made imitations such as glass.
Caring for your topaz is fairly simple. Never clean topaz in an ultrasonic cleaner, or steamer. Instead, clean it in warm, soapy water. Keep topaz jewelry away from extreme heat and never allow it to come in contact with acids or rapid temperature changes.