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Imperial Topaz

topazAmong the topaz stones, there are those of different color hues, even though the base of all topaz stones is the same: fluorinated aluminum silicate A­l2SiO4 (F, ОН), Moh’s hardness 8. Most of them do not cost much, but there is one exception: imperial topaz, an exceptionally rare gem from Brazil. Orange topaz as it is was quite well known for a long time, but its re-appearance as “imperial” was the result of a well-thought public relations campaign. Such topaz stones are really unique, and they cannot be found anywhere else.

In just a few years, imperial topaz won a serious position on the market, and prices for some stones reached $2,000 per carat. In fact, the price for imperial topaz stones may be quite different, ranging from some hundreds to thousands of dollars per carat, depending on the quality of the crystal.

The difference between an ordinary topaz and an imperial is very small, but it is an important distinction, as the difference in prices is huge. The most important factors in determining price are color and especially, the stone’s origin. To be regarded as an imperial topaz, the stone must come from Brazil. Its usual color is bright orange with a touch of pink or, as a gemologist once aptly noticed, the color of medium-salted salmon. Unlike many other topaz stones, including Ukrainian ones, the imperials’ color is very consistent and does not fade in the sun. But somehow it happens that the same Brazilian deposits give not only these golden and orange stones, but also pink and even lilac ones. Local businessmen were smart enough to classify these stones as imperials, too, and now sell them in large quantities on the market. Pink topaz, being the rarest of all, is more expensive than an ordinary imperial. Yellow topaz stones undergo special thermal treatment to give them the expensive pink touch. Brown topaz is also heated and gives yellow and pink stones. But they are not imperials, so their price corresponds their true value.

Uncut topaz crystalUncut topaz crystal A cut topazA cut topaz

But it looks like the Brazilians outsmarted themselves. Recently in Pakistan, perfect pink topaz stones have been found. Among them there were those that are similar in coloring to the classic Brazilian imperial topaz stones, and so they are now classified as imperials, too. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, pink topaz stones were found in Russia, in the Ural deposit called Murzinka. But at that time, nobody thought to make a huge ad campaign out of it, and so these stones cost the same as their alternatively colored brothers.

The wonderful Brazilian topaz stones are preserved in the State Diamond Fund and are set in the Order of the Golden Fleece. This Spanish order is still considered the most venerable in Europe. Only 61 person counts among its cavaliers, though it was established in the 15th century by the Duke of Burgundy Philippe, the Good. Later, the order was inherited by the Habsburg dynasty and finally settled in Spain, where it changed its role from a chivalry decoration to a nobility award. The cavaliers of the Order of the Golden Fleece always belonged to the highest elite: monarchs, members of royal families, and aristocracy. Initially, only the Catholics were eligible for the order, but in the 19th century, the honor was also given to the Protestants and even the Orthodox. By that time, the orders began to be decorated by topaz stones, which have always been considered the symbols of duty, honor and unity.

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In fact, the story of imperial topaz is a good illustration of how the jewelry business should be conducted. Let us take those topaz stones, for example. Do you think this gem has no other rare colors except for orange? Of course not. In Ukraine, for instance, unusual polychrome topaz stones with a unique color play were found. They play from blue to dark-red (burgundy) and are also unique for the weight of the crystals – up to two kilos! It is quite possible that these stones can be sold for a nice price. But to make it possible, one had to work, invest in promotion, and wait. But Ukrainians wanted their money quickly, so that is why they sold their unique gems for $4-8 per carat.

A similar thing happened to another beautiful gem: charoit, found in the valley of the Siberian river Chara. The stone had a unique opalescent lilac color, and it occurred nowhere else in the world except for a small plot of land in Russia. Charoit was discovered in the end of the 1960s; the deposit was thoroughly analyzed and evaluated, like everything in the Soviet times. Finally, by the end of the 1980s, it was recognized as ready for prospect, but then came the wild 1990s. This was the “golden age” of Russian Business, the era of the “Big Snatch.” Everybody wanted to fill their pockets as quick as possible. The newly born businessmen had never thought of such “useless” thing as any well considered strategy. Thus, the deposit has been fully depleted within some 10 years.

topaz_02 Russian charoitRussian charoit

The mining reached its peak in 1999 when charoit had been sold by wagonloads, for $10 per kilo, to the Hindus and the Chinese. Now the last chunks are sold for minimal price of $500, with some buyers ready to pay up to $1000. Too little, too late, beause there is nothing left of the stone.

Apart from, imperials there are many other types of topaz. Lately, blue topaz stones from mainly Brazil became increasingly popular. They are quite large and highly transparent with a color that is pleasantly clear. In their natural form, most of these stones are colorless, and the blue shade is given by the neutron radiation; they are enhanced in the reactors or in the nuclear fuel repositories. The resulting stones are very beautiful, but slightly radioactive, though it is believed they are safe.