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Topaz (To-Paz): The roots of the word Topaz first burgeoned into life in ancient Egypt, circa 300B.C., under the Pharaoh Ptolemy II. However, what the Egyptians, Greeks and subsequent Romans came to refer to as Topaz was in fact our peridot: In reality the mineral that we call Topaz today, has only been officially recognized since the 17th Century. Initially, hundreds of kilos of Topaz were sourced from Saxony in East Germany, later massive deposits were also found in South America.

Topaz was first discovered in the 'New World', under the reigning Portuguese colonialists, in the Brazilian mines of Villa Rica, near Ouro Preto. From these mines came a colored Topaz never seen before. Owing to the Portuguese royal family's love of these gems, this variety received one of Topaz's most prestigious titles.

'Imperial Topaz' is the most coveted of all the Topaz family. Its name is used to denote colors that fall between a scintillating golden orange and pink nuance. Of all Imperial Topaz's hues the most highly prized is the pink variety. For the most part these Pink Topazes are sourced from the mines of Ouro Preto in Brazil, and the Katlang region in Pakistan. Most Pink Topaz derives its color from chromium present within the gems crystal structure. Heating the dark-yellow variety of Topaz can also produce pink Topaz. Naturally occurring Yellow and Brown Topaz owe their colors to 'Color Centers,' the infamous 'Swiss,' 'Sky' and 'London' Blue Topaz are often derived from these two sources by irradiating the Yellow and Brown 'Color Centers.'

Color centers are the cause of color within Blue Topaz crystals; they result from defects within the atomic structure of the crystal, which cause certain colors to become visible by the absorption of other light waves. Color centers are formed due to exposure to gamma rays; this irradiation may be from both natural and artificial sources. When exposed to radioactive sources, both natural and artificial, electrons within the atomic structure of Topaz can be removed from their normal sites. Some electrons are bounced around, eventually coming to rest in a vacant part of the atomic structure called a trap. Electrons in specific traps absorb a certain range of light wavelengths, the visible color that you see is the color that is not absorbed by these trapped electrons.

Naturally occurring 'Colorless,' or 'White,' Topaz takes a very high polish and is wonderfully clear and transparent. A relative new comer to the Topaz family is Mystic Topaz, which is produced by taking 'Colorless' Topaz and applying a thin layer of titanium oxide via physical vapor deposition. This process is similar to the method used in coating camera lenses, and produces an iridescent effect across the gems surface. Mystic Topaz, coming in a wide variety of colored nuances, is extremely popular and one of the most successful colored gemstones available today.

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Topaz crystallizes from fluorine-bearing vapor in last stages of solidification of igneous rocks. In mineralogical terms it is a silicate of aluminium and fluorine denoted by the chemical formula Al2SiO4(F,OH)2. It is found in association with granite rocks, within pegmatite veins, and in secondary concentrations such as streambed alluvial deposits.

Topaz crystals form in the rhombic system of crystallization, and its crystals are prismatic. Topaz possesses a perfect basal cleavage; therefore gems should be handled with care. Despite this fact, Topaz is one of the hardest minerals known to man attaining an 8 out of 10 on the Moh's hardness scale, second only to corundum and diamond. Most Topaz is transparent to translucent with a vitreous glass-like luster. However, naturally occurring Pink and Red Topaz is often included due to the presence of the impurity chromium. These pink colored Topazes are so rare that the inclusions are, much like with ruby, tolerated and even valued as identifying fingerprints.

Topaz is sourced from the mines of Ouro Preto and Minas Gerais in Brazil, the Ural and Ilmen Mountains in Russia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Czech Republic, Saxony, Norway, Sweden, Japan, Mexico and the United States.

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