Topaz, The Imperial Imitator.

A beautiful example of raw pink topaz.

November, the middle month of post-Halloween sugar rushes and the anticipation of Christmas jitters. Traditionally, November has been associated with the golden gemstones of topaz and citrine. This blog will be about the prior, topaz, as I feel too many November babies complain about this gem. Lucky for you I know many things about this gemstone, including the many colours it can be when the conditions are right. 

There even are varieties of topaz that deserve enough respect to be labelled as “Imperial”.  Aside from the known golden orange colours, topaz can come in colours of wine red, pink, yellow, grey, colourless, blue and even a rare green and violet. Topaz is also an interesting stone as it’s colours can be enhanced with treatments, more so than other stones.

Range of color in Imperial topaz rough from Oro Preto, Brazil.
Imperial topaz rough from Oro Preto, Brazil.

Topaz is a very old gemstone but has a muddled history as the name was used to classify any yellow gemstone, hence it gets mixed up with citrine. Etymologically, the name derives from the same island that peridot was mined in ancient times, Τοπαζος, the ancient name of St. John’s Island in the Red Sea. The word topaz may also be related to the Sanskrit word तपस् “tapas,” meaning “heat” or “fire” due to the burning red and gold colours some of these gemstones display. In the modern era, topazes are fairly abundant compared to their cardinal cousins. Many of the rare and beautiful varieties of topaz come from Brazil, however, the USA, Sri Lanka and Africa are also known to supply excellent examples of this gemstone as well.   

Topaz is identified as:

  • 1) Orthorhombic Crystal System
  • 2) Silicate Category 
  • 3) Nesosilicate Family
  • 4) Mineral = Topaz -Al2SiO4(F,OH)2
  • 5) Varieties = Imperial Topaz, Sherry Topaz, (colour) Topaz, Mystic Topaz (man-made).   
Photographed from the GIA Collection for the CIBJO project from the Dr. Eduard J. Gubelin Collection. Left to right: Collection# 33572, 14.33 ct golden orange cushion cut topaz from Ouro Preto; # 33552, 14.32 ct rose red cushion cut topaz from Ural Mountains, Russia; Collection# 33581, 7.61 ct rose red fancy cut topaz from Russia; and Collection# 33575, 12.54 ct orange red baguette cut topaz from Ouro Preto.

There are many attractive traits to topaz besides its colour. With a hardness of 8, it produces a bright lustre and is fairly resistant to scratches, however, chipping is a different story. Due to the atomic alignment, the crystal structure has weak points, known as cleavage planes. In topaz, these cleavage planes are very pronounced, as in it makes a clean break, and the stone can easily fracture along this plane. To avoid this, gem cutters cut the gemstone off angled to these planes to minimize the risk of cleaving your stone. Gem cutters also love this stone because it is relatively flawless compared to other stones thus you are able to cut beautiful flawless gems.  

Using a child to scale just how big these flawless crystals can grow.

Another intriguing quality about topaz is its strong pleochroism, an optical quality in a gemstone that allows the stone to show different colours depending on what angle you look at it. All transparent matter refracts light as the wavelengths are slowed down when travelling through a thicker medium. When there is a distinct crystal structure, these wavelengths are split into the slow and fast ray. If it’s a large enough split, different colours distinguishable to the human eye will be expressed. For most topaz, these colours are just deeper or light versions of the body colour. However, in some stones the stone will appear pinkish from one viewpoint and orange from another, giving it a real fiery dance of colour.    

How pleochroism works and how we are able to detect it with a polarized filter. This characteristic helps up identify gemstones from one another.
Excellent example of pleochroism in the mineral cordiorite or iolite for the gemstone name. This stone will appear either straw yellow, deep blue or grey-violet depending on the angle you look at it. All of this is related to the atomic structure and crystal axis of the mineral

Alright, now to dive into the source of these colours and how to detect your topaz is a true topaz. As topaz is relatively abundant, there are not synthetic varieties to worry about. Treatments and imitations are a different story. There are several varieties of topaz, such as the blue ones that cannot be easily made by nature. This is the case with deep blue topazes, properly named Swiss and London blue. The lighter blue usually referred to as “Sky Blue” can appear natural or be created through treating a clear stone. Now here is what is really cool about these coloured topazes. The colour is created through radiation. The process involves pelting the stone with gamma rays (this deforms the crystal lattice) turning the stone to a brown colour. Then they heat the stones to 250℃ to produce a deep, beautiful, stable blue. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to detect this treatment so it has been agreed upon that unless indicated with evidence, all blue topazes have been treated. Still, I find it hilarious thinking about the mad scientist who discovered this treatment.  

A raw natural Blue topaz crystal

While clean and grey topaz can be transformed into a captivating blue, yellow-brown stones can be heat treated and transformed into a pink topaz. Interestingly, this is only true if there is chromium within the crystal, otherwise, the treatment turns the topaz colourless. Interestingly they have discovered that the magic temperature is 550℃ to optimal pink. The stone first goes clean and then as it cools the pink starts to shine through. Higher temperatures cause the stone to remain colourless as it cools. Many ‘Imperial” topazes are treated with this treatment to help emphasize the pink tones within the stone. Again it is hard to distinguish the difference between natural and treated stones. Unless indicated, treat all of these stones as treated as well. Gold, brown, orange topaz are less suspicious as they’re the less desired colours. 

How treatments change the stone.

The only known imitation stone I know used to imitate topaz in cubic zirconia. They can be easily distinguished from topaz as they lack pleochroism and have a much brighter sparkle. Instead, it’s topaz that is used as the imitator. Little fun fact but if you freeze a topaz, it will pass as a diamond with a thermal conductor tester used for diamonds. Thus colourless topaz has been used to imitate diamonds since there is no pleochroism. They also share very similar blue hues and have been mixed up but topaz is easy to tell from diamond again due to the pleochroism. Other stones that are mistaken for topaz are citrines and lighter garnet colours. 

One topaz I want to really make sure you watch out for is the topaz known as Mystic topaz. This is a beautiful stone but the colours are not from the stone. This polychromatic effect is created from baking a titanium oxide coating onto the crystal and then anodizing that oxide. This coating is applied to the pavilion or underside of the crystal to protect the coating from wear. The issue I have with this stone is that I have seen it dubbed many names, such as Caribbean Topaz, Azotic Topaz, Rainbow Topaz and more. It’s a very beautiful and colourful stone but not natural. Also, beware the misnomers, topaz is a common name used for less expensive citrines and smoky quartz 

Mystic Topaz.

Now as I have always stated, there are always unique outliers and that if you are ever curious about your stones, bring them to a certified gemmologist. They know best and can tell you if you have a topaz or not and MAYBE if it’s treated. Again most are assumed to be treated unless specified. Otherwise, if you want a relatively inexpensive but equally beautiful stone that can stand up to everyday wear, then the November birthstone might catch your eye. 

I have attached a few links for you to look through at your leisure if you are interested in learning more about opals and their patterns. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topaz

Wikipedia – never to be quoted for a research paper but still a great source of information to start.

https://geology.com/minerals/topaz.shtml

Geology.com – another great website that goes into more of the geological details of gemstones and really anything geological. 

https://www.gia.edu/topaz-description

GIA – another great source for gemmological information. 

Till next time, Peter

Shop Online / Curbside Pick

If you are looking to support local you an still shop with us! We have items available in our recently expanded online shop and we would love to do a virtual shop to help you select something in the store that we can arrange for curbside pick up.

I selected a piece from online or one that is available in store (available for curbside pick up) from each of our goldsmiths. If you would like to explore more in store options get in touch over email or call to set up a video call to check out more options!

info@jewelenvy.ca

647.436.6709

Gillian Batcher

Pash Jewellery Design

Available online, Gillian Bather’s Twig Necklace
Blue Jay Earrings by Gillian Batcher of Pash Jewellery Design.
In store, available by getting in touch info@jewelenvy.ca or 647.436.6709

Alexis Kostuk

Glaciale Goldsmith

Available online Alexis Kostuk’s small hoops
Turquoise Necklace by Alexis Kostuk of glaciale goldsmith.
In store, available by getting in touch info@jewelenvy.ca or 647.436.6709

Jerell Reichert

Urban Metal

Available Online, Jerell Reichert’s smooth drop silver earrings.
Folded and textured cuff bracelet by Jerell Reichert of Urban Metal.
In store, available by getting in touch info@jewelenvy.ca or 647.436.6709

Zef Radi

Radi Brothers

Available online, Zef Radi’s Dangling Filigree Earrings.

Shafiq Sarwari

Available Online, Shafiq Sarwari’s Teardrop Filigree Pendant.

Jessica Nehme

Mavia

Available Online, Tree of Life Necklace by Jessica Nehme

Robin Cassady-Cain

House of Cassady

Available online, Textured Kinetic Earrings by Robin Cassady-Cain.
Cufflinks by Robin Cassady-Cain of House of Cassady.
In store, available by getting in touch info@jewelenvy.ca or 647.436.6709

Peter van Walraven

van Walraven Goudsmid

Available online, Water and Spirit Necklace by Peter van Walraven.
Water Necklace by Peter van Walraven of van Walraven Goudsmid.
In store, available by getting in touch info@jewelenvy.ca or 647.436.6709

Alex Kinsley Vey

Kinsley Vey Designs

Available Online, Double Drop Pod Earrings by Alex Kinsley Vey
Growth Bracelet by Alex Kinsley Vey or Kinsley Vey Designs.
In store, available by getting in touch info@jewelenvy.ca or 647.436.6709

Saeedeh Rahmati

Available online, Morgh Amin Necklace by Saeedeh Rahmati.
Earrings by Saeedeh Rahmati.
In store, available by getting in touch info@jewelenvy.ca or 647.436.6709

Karyn Houston

Sticks vs. Stone

Available online, Amazonite clover earrings by Karyn Houston.
Aquamarine Ring made by Karyn Houston of Sticks vs. Stone.
In store, available by getting in touch info@jewelenvy.ca or 647.436.6709

Hyewon Jang

H Jewellery

Available online, Bubble Earrings by Hyewon Jang.
Blossom Earrings made by Hyewon Jang of H Jewellery.
In store, available by getting in touch info@jewelenvy.ca or 647.436.6709

Roozbeh Rastegar

Rooz Jewellery

Available online, Double Star Necklace by Roozbeh Rastegar.

Edna Milevsky

Available online, Sliding Double Sided Pendant by Edna Milevsky.
Wave Brooches by Edna Milevsky.
In store, available by getting in touch info@jewelenvy.ca or 647.436.6709

Alessandra Pompei

Pompei Fine Jewellery

Available online, Lollipop Brooches by Alessandra Pompei.
Oval Signet Ring by Alessandra Pompei of Pompei Fine Jewellery.
Available online and in store. Other shapes (heart, rectangle, square) in store available by getting in touch info@jewelenvy.ca or 647.436.6709

Street Art in the City

Welcome to a superb Saturday! With the continuing Health Crisis getting to us all, I’m grateful for days like today, when at least the weather makes me happy! Crisp, sunny, late fall days are my favourite – the temperature is cooling off, but it’s so sunny that it lightens my heart. Hopefully you feel the same! Or are at least out for some physically-distanced air, and stocking up on Vitamin D.

Living in the city definitely has its rewards, despite the drawbacks. One of the things I love (in my continuing journey of getting to relearn Toronto), is all the street art. Its become almost a game for me, spotting everything when I’m out and about.

These are just a few of the things I spotted on my walk in this morning:

The art is whimsical, sometimes more meaningful, and colourful. Most of all, I feel inspired by the fact that it’s evidence that people care about their spaces, and that it’s also an initiative to support artists, and it brings them visibility. I think alot of it has been initiated through the StreetARToronto program. If you visit the website there are maps of where different pieces have been done–in this current age of trying to be physically distant,they make a great outdoor discovery adventure.

Friends of mine were inspired by the street art around Toronto, and wanted to support a local artist, so they commissioned this fantastic mural for their shed.

I hope you, too, will be inspired to support local artists and local small businesses as we come up to the holidays, either in person, or through online shopping. Did you know that we have just added alot of new work from all the members of Jewel Envy to the online shop? Pop over and check it out–and don’t forget that we take orders for variants on existing pieces and custom pieces as well! Send us a message to start a conversation.

Happy Saturday, and hope to see you soon!

-Robin

(House of Cassady)

Alessandra Pompei joined Jewel Envy.

Alessandra Pompei is an Italian Canadian jeweller based in Toronto, Canada. She creates fine jewellery, blends the highest quality materials with the ultimate level of craftsmanship, combined with personal narrative creating statement pieces that are not only aesthetically pleasing but engaging to the viewer. Her determination, devotion, and discipline results in functional fine art.

Lollipop
Sterling Silver, Resin, Steel, CZ.

Gold für Eisen

Industrial Inspiration cont. by Alex Kinsley

Gold für Eisen is a series of rings I created as part of my Iron Idenity collection, translating to Gold for Iron from German, these rings aim to explore what these factories and industrial sites meant, and to some extent, still mean to the city of Hamilton.

The Berlin Iron movement of the 19th century serves as a historical link for me, the idea of industrial material and aesthetics used in self-expression, as well as the subtler connection to loyalty to one’s city/state/identity which was encouraged by the Prussians during the time. Connecting this with the pride and loyalty many people have for Hamilton, though this pride is partly of its grimy industrial attitudes, has led me to look back at my home and upbringing.

The places and structures I reference directly influenced the culture of Hamilton. These former steel mills, manufacturing facilities and factories provided good working-class jobs, and were once economic symbols announcing the prosperity of the city. Now that we have moved into a post-industrial economy; transitioning into service-based industries, these places look dirty, out of place, and the desire to tear them down for new development is strong. I grew up around the last of these industrial sites when the flame of industry was already diminished. I feel compelled to record the physical and emotional identity of this city in order to come to a better understanding of my own identity.

I hope you enjoyed this look behind the work.

Alex

Class Rates Increasing in 2021

2020 was not the year any of us expected and we have all had to make huge sacrifices to keep going. With many businesses on the brink of failure I feel truly lucky that Jewel Envy has survived and I know it is because of your support that we have been able to do so.

To stay in compliance with all of the health and safety recommendations we made a huge investment in our processes for cleaning and the installation of our UVC sterilization system. In addition to this we have had to reduce the number of classes we were able to offer in 2020 and reduce the number of people in each class.

Jewel Envy’s amazing instructors who are the resident goldsmiths have had a dramatic decrease in what was once a stable part of their income as they are paid per student to teach. To compensate for this moving forward I have chosen to increase the cost of classes so that the instructors can be paid more knowing they will have fewer classes in the coming year(s) and be teaching smaller groups (for a while).

All gift certificates that specifically say for classes and were issued before November 1st, 2020 will be honored as full payment for said class until March 31st, 2021 or the dollar value that class was worth at any time.

I fully support our goldsmithing family and feel that this price increase will continue to allow them to make the fabulous and uncompromising work they produce. I am a budget conscious person and always try to keep price increases to a minimum; this is only our second one in 14 years of business so I feel at this point it was necessary and fair.

I’m grateful to all of you and hope to see everyone in the studio or for an online consult some time soon.

Sincerely, Gillian