Thursday, March 27, 2014

Topaz...especially of the London Blue variety

I know, I know, it's not November (the month that boasts Topaz as its birthstone) or December (the month that has stolen London Blue Topaz as its birthstone) but still -- it's a lovely stone and perfect for spring and summer this year with the blues of the fashion color scape.

But what exactly is London Blue Topaz?  Unfortunately -- it's an enhanced stone, it does not naturally occur.  In it's pure form, Topaz is colorless (a great alternative for April birthstone if I may say so) and impurities are what bring colors.

The most common color is the golden topaz -- often mistaken historically for citrine, and vice versa -- which is why both stones are considered the birthstone of November.  The most prized is Imperial Topaz -- which hosts goldens, yellows, some orange and pink hues, usually together.

Many stones can often be mistaken for Topaz -- it's the crystalline and fluorescence that often sets other stones apart.   In fact most topaz on the market with funky names, like Madeira topaz, occidental topaz, Palmeira topaz, Rio topaz, Scottish topaz, and Spanish topaz are actually a form of Citrine -- which itself is a form of colored quartz.  (This is why you find stones like Ametrine -- Crystal, Citrine and Amethyst grow together often as it is impurities in crystal quartz that creates citrine and amethyst). 

The one difference is Smokey Topaz -- which is never, ever topaz, but smokey quartz in structure.

I know it's a sad state of affairs -- but it's all about the trade names these days in the gemstone business.  I often get angry when at gem shows, because some dealers can't stand that Mom and I can usually see what type of stone we are looking at (or at the very least what is trying to be mimicked through 'enhancement') on sight.

Enter London Blue Topaz -- stunning beauty that it is, it is merely an enhanced stone -- so why the heft price tag?  (Only imperial topaz can top it's price tag).   I don't know really -- but I think it's probably about popularity.  I went to a show in Seattle recently and was ready to drop well over 300 wholesale for a fabulous strand -- yes one strand -- of London Blue.

Blue does happen in nature -- just not vibrant striking London Blue.  It's a softer blue, often called something like "ice blue."

Virtually clear -- with just a slight hint of blue.   In order to get the London color (think the color of the 11th Doctor's TARDIS) the producers usually irradiate it and then heat it to bring out fabulous blue.

Yes those are different necklaces -- and they are both sold from the shop, I am just using them as examples of how blue topaz looks naturally, and how it looks after the irradiation and heating to produce London blue.

Even though I know it's an enhanced stone -- and I don't like using very many enhanced stones in the shop -- I just can't get past how much I love the deep ocean blue of that London Blue Topaz.  Also -- it seems to adjust well to being layered with sapphire, in case you wanted to know.

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