Topaz – November Birthstone Meaning

Beauty, strength, healing, protection – from Old Egypt to modern astrology people have attributed the topaz with mystical powers. We take a look at the meaning and history of the exquisite November birthstone.

Why is topaz special?

The November birthstone is famous for its extraordinary clarity. It also offers a vibrant variety of colours, including blue, yellow, red and white. Its beauty and high value make it a desirable gem to add to a jewellery collection.

What does the name ‘topaz’ mean?

The word ‘topaz’ has two potential origins.

Most people say it was named after the island of Topazios in the Red Sea. This is where yellow topaz was first found by Egyptians – although gem experts are now debating whether it was in fact peridot.

Others believe the name comes from the Sanskrit word tapaz which means ‘fire’.

Image credit blue topaz / via National Geographic
Image credit blue topaz | National Geographic image bank

Topaz history, legend and lore

Much of the topaz discovered by early civilizations was yellow. Blue topaz was only discovered by gem traders centuries later.

The golden glow of yellow topaz reminded ancient people of the sun, stars and fire, all potent symbols of energy and power.

Here are some topaz legends from different ages and cultures:

  • In ancient Egypt people linked topaz with the sun god Ra. As yellow topaz has a unique golden brilliance, it was a powerful amulet for the Egyptians, who believed it could ward off evil. They even thought topaz could warn of poison present in food or drink by changing colour.

  • In early Greek lore, the topaz was said to give its wearers physical strength, while the Romans believed it had the power to bring reconciliation between enemies.

  • Much later during, Renaissance Europeans held a belief that topaz could break curses and prevent black magic.

  • In South America, early tribes thought the gem could cure illness when they placed it on the patient’s body during a full moon.

  • For centuries in India people have claimed that topaz worn near the heart will give you intelligence, good looks and longevity.

Read more about The History of Gemstones.

Left: wall painting of sun god Ra with sun disk over his head, Right: yellow topaz 

November’s birthstone

According to astrologists, the topaz is a powerful stone and it’s effect is particularly strong on people born in November or under the star sign of Scorpio – or both.

Students of topaz lore believe it has a balancing effect on emotions, and that the gem can relieve stress and bring forth feelings of joy.

According to the Asian spiritual tradition, the topaz can bring harmony, peace and love into your life, as well as stoke the fire of creativity.

Blue topaz earrings

Topaz colour and characteristics

Rough topaz exists in a huge range of colours. But jewellery conoisseurs often favour blue topaz with its outstanding colour and sparkle.

Topaz crystals can also be ‘pleochroic’, which means that one gem can reflect many different colors. This is the case for mystic topaz, which flashes in complementary greens and reds for a breathtaking effect – see it here in this video:

Gemmologists rate topaz at 8 out of 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, which means it’s a very durable gemstone, perfectly suited for jewellery because it doesn’t scratch or damage easily.

Curiously, polished topaz feels very slippery to the touch. This is due to its special crystal structure.

Clockwise from top left: (1) Rough topaz crystal  (2) Yellow, orange and pink topaz  (3) Imperial topaz   (4) High clarity blue topaz   (5) Mystic topaz

Where does topaz come from?

Today many countries produce topaz, including large mechanised mines in Russia and China.

However, the highest quality topaz comes from Brazil’s Minas Gerais region. Much of the country’s gemstone mining is artisanal and recently ,due to pressure from charities and non-profit NGO’s, the Brazilian government has limited large scale industrial mining. This is a potivie step as it protects Brazil’s environment and the local tribes’ way of life.

The world's largest cut topaz, the 'American Golden' from Brazil's Minas Gerais region, weighs 22,892.5 carats. Here it's seen on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, USA / Image credit via ZakVTA,
The world’s largest cut topaz, the ‘American Golden’ from Brazil’s Minas Gerais region, weighs 22,892.5 carats. Here it’s seen on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, USA / Image credit via ZakVTA,

Topaz jewellery

Topaz is the birthstone for November and the gem that aligns with the star sign of Scorpio. It is also the official wedding anniversary gem for the 5th and 16th years of marriage.

Blue topaz has clear, bright blue colour. Its crystals are perfect for handcrafting large pieces of jewellery. An ideal winter birthday gift, blue topaz is also a popular bridal gem.

Almost as hard as the sapphire topaz can last a lifetime and more – making it worthy of commemorating important life occasions.