November's birthstone: Topaz

In the United States, topaz can be found in Maine, Montana, Colorado, Utah, and California, but we have minimal topaz compared to one of the world's largest producers, Brazil. In nature topaz occurs in colors of orange, pink-orange, brown, yellow, and very pale blue. The popular bright blue topaz you may have seen in jewelry has all been heat-treated and irradiated and does not occur naturally. The beautiful naturally-colored gems below were mined at Lord Hill in Stoneham, Maine.

Though topaz is very hard when it comes to scratch resistance (an 8 on Moh's Hardness Scale), care must be taken by gem-cutters or jewelers working with the stone because of its perfect cleavage. Cleavage refers to the flat planes that can occur in the lattice of the crystal (the way the atoms are arranged and how cohesive they are). With perfect cleavage, a stone can easily break along a cleavage plane if too much pressure is applied. Diamonds are similar to topaz in this way: though they are the hardest substance known to humans (with regard to resistance to scratching), they have perfect cleavage like topaz and can easily split if hit in the "wrong" spot.

However, if a jeweler can successfully set topaz, they make a fabulous stone for jewelry. Because of its hardness, topaz even makes a great stone for rings! That's what I have planned for the lovely light blue topaz above.

Using the brown topaz from Stoneham, Maine and a violet Yogo Montana sapphire, I created this special custom necklace for a client. She wanted to give her sister a necklace that featured both of their birthstones. Her sister was born in November, and she was born in September.

An alternative November birthstone is the less expensive citrine, the yellow-orange variety of quartz. Topaz and citrine have historically been confused for one another because of their appearance, but they have very different working properties. Citrine is just slightly softer, a 7 on Moh's Hardness Scale, but has NO cleavage! This makes it a very different stone to work with. I love both topaz and citrine, as long as they are their natural colors and were mined in the United States!


Laurie Lynn Berezin
Laurie Lynn Berezin


1 Comment


November 13, 2014

Beautiful stones!

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