Gemstones and Birthstones: No, Mr. Marketer, Quartz Is Not Topaz

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If so, topaz has been flattered a lot. Especially by quartz.

ABOVE: This 3.35 ct. Brazilian Imperial topaz is unusual in that it is bi-color incorporating all the best in topaz. Photo Mia Dixon, courtesy Pala International.

November's real topaz birthstone set in beautiful jewelry.

If you ever have any doubt that citrine is not topaz, look at the stones in this gorgeous jewelry pieces set with Imperial topaz. The stuff of dreams. Photo by Mia Dixon, courtesy The Collector Fine Jewelry.

If your birthstone is topaz, you have no doubt heard what you thought was your birthstone described as smoky topaz, citrine topaz, or Madeira topaz. Only problem is, none of these stones are topaz. They are all quartz. It’s even worse on the Internet. Search for golden topaz, yellow topaz, or even what is supposed to be the Rolls Royce of topaz, Imperial topaz, and although your search term is “topaz,” what often comes up is citrine quartz or even “simulated” topaz. (Read: CZ.)

There are two reasons for this.

Less expensive topazes are often light in tone, making them, for most buyers, less desirable. As with most colored stones, you want the deepest color possible with the fewest inclusions. But as the color of topaz deepens, the price generally rises. The finest colors can run many hundreds of dollars per carat. So many marketers have simply substituted citrine which can provide a deeper color for a reasonable price. Ethical marketers will tell you this. Not all will.

Going in the other direction, quartz, by itself, doesn’t have much appeal to buyers. A yellow citrine has a certain amount of appeal, but it may be much more desirable if it is borrows the cachet of “topaz.”

Possibly the worst offender in this name game is “smoky topaz.” Smoky quartz is a lovely color–a smoky golden to brownish gray. Just perfect for the right mood. But some marketers decided that the stone wouldn’t sell without a “push”–and they stuck the topaz name on it. But there is no grey or brownish gray topaz, and I can’t tell you how many people I’ve offended by explaining that their smoky “topaz,” while lovely, is a type of quartz.

Pear-shape Imperial topaz

A pear-shape, 3.70 carat Imperial topaz. Photo Mia Dixon, courtesy Pala International.

So when you are shopping for your topaz birthstone, ask questions. Ask point blank if the stone is a citrine or other type of quartz. Ask for a written statement that the stone is what it is claimed to be.

If you already own a citrine “topaz” or a smoky “topaz,” and enjoy the stone, continue to enjoy it. You bought the stone for its beauty, and a name change does not alter that beauty. And besides, citrine is an alternate birthstone for the month of November.

For more on that, watch this space….

Sharon Elaine Thompson is a GG and FGA who has been writing on gemstone and jewelry topics for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 1987. She also writes a line of Birthstone Romances under the name Liz Hartley.

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