Shinjyu Jewelry Company - Arden Arcade, Sacramento 95825

History of Topaz

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Some Historical Tidbits

Frederick Kunz in THE CURIOUS LORE OF PRECIOUS STONES has written that topaz was one of the gemstones in the Breastplate of Aaron, also known as the Breastplate of the High Priest. He examines in detail commentaries on passages from EXODUS, xxxvii, 15-30, and from REVELATIONS, xxi, 9-12, from which he traces associations among the the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 apostles, and the 12 birthstones. Kunz also ascribes the present choice of the 12 "natal stones" to Josephus, circa 1st century AD, and to St. Jerome, 5th century AD. Both Josephus and St. Jerome base their lists on the descriptions of the 12 gemstones in the High Priest's Breastplate as listed in EXODUS and REVELATION.

One of the finest collections of topaz had been assembled in Istanbul, formally known as Constantinople, during its time of great prominence. Unfortunately, this collection has been scattered to the four corners of Europe during the Crusades of the Middle Ages, never to be assembled again. Conflicts certainly have long histories.

In times past, when diamond cutting was not as precise as it is today, some small diamonds were confused with topaz as well as the other way round. However, it was not only small gemstones that were misidentified. For instance, a fine "diamond" weighing 1,680 carats known as the "Braganza" had been considered a centerpiece in the Portuguese crown jewels. Today, we know the Braganza as a beautiful topaz of fine color and clarity. Still an exceptional stone, regandless of the change in pedigree.
Kunz has it that topaz derives its name from the island of Topazos in the Red Sea and cites as evidence the fact that Pliny has written that the gemstone was found on the island in great quantities. However, Michail Weistien in THE WORLD OF JEWEL STONES writes to disagree with Kunz, positing that "topaz" is derived from the Greek "topazo" which means "to seek." His reasoning is that, since the island was often embanked in fog, it was hard to find when the fog rolled in, especially in that pre-electronic world. Maybe the island of Topazos was hard to find in  all that fog.

Be that as it may, the Gemological Institute of America has it that "topaz" has its roots in the Sanskrit "topas" meaning "fire" That explanation seems reasonable since a gemmy topaz does have a unique, controlled fire.

But whatever we call the beautiful gemstone, a topaz is a topaz is a topaz. 

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