The imperial topaz is also known as ‘precious topaz’, as it is the most sought-after and rarest natural topaz. It represents less than 0.5% percent of facet-grade topaz found in the market!
Although it has been traditionally considered to be orange in colour, it is now usually described as yellow, pink or pink-orange/red. The pink-red colour is the rarest natural variety and consequently, the most expensive. Below you can see one of the pink-orange samples from our collection:
According to GIA, “the pink topaz, often called rose topaz, resembles a pink diamond or a bright pink sapphire. Pink topaz has certain advantages over these two gems. It’s much less expensive than pink diamond, and it’s often available in larger sizes than either diamond or sapphire”.
Imperial topaz can be distinguished from other orange and pink gems by its hardness, which is an 8 on the Mohs scale. Tourmaline, for instance, is softer, and ruby is a harder gem. However, you can say that topaz is a scratch-resistant gem. Regarding to its clarity, Imperial topaz is a high-pure gem that is transparent to translucent, and it tends to be ‘eye-clean’ (meaning that no imperfections can be seen with the naked eye).
There is no single established cut for the imperial topaz. You can find it in a great variety of shapes. We started our collection with ovals (in the pic), pears, princess and square cuts, but many more varieties are coming soon.
Imperial topaz got its name from its original source in Russia, where it was named after the Russian royal family in the seventeenth century. Although there are still some deposits in the Russian Urals, the city of Ouro Preto in Brazil is now the only place where imperial topaz is commercially mined.
The former colonial town of Ouro Preto is located in the Southeast of Brazil, in the Minas Gerais region, where Gemstones Brazil comes from! The fabulous city holds historical significance as a centre of government, and it was the site of Brazil’s first independence movement against the Portuguese in 1789. It is also famous for its historical mining school, the Escola de Minas, and for its many mineral deposits of gold, hematite, dolomite, tourmaline, pyrite, muscovite, topaz and – of course – imperial topaz. It is now a prominent tourist destination in Brazil due to its well-preserved colonial architecture, and it is known as a centre for education and the arts.
It sits at the feet of the Serra do Espinhaço mountain range, and has a steeper topography than any other historical town in Minas. Its crooked, narrow streets are very charming, but in many places they are too difficult for vehicles to traverse. Travelling the steep cobblestone streets can be tiring, but can offer a beautiful panorama of the hilly city, including its twenty-three churches.
Our Visit to Ouro Preto
She talked with the topaz miners to find out more about their production processes and, of course, to seek out the best gems to bring home! At Gemstones Brazil, we are proud to be able to provide our customers with information on the provenance of most of our stones. So, it was important for Maira to go there and see how it is mined with her own eyes!
She also visited the cutters’ cooperative and had the great opportunity to see the place where the magic happens: the fascinating transformation of rough imperial topaz into the beautiful faceted gems. To wrap up the visit, a good locally-produced “cafezinho” with the lovely cutters to provide some energy to keep walking the steep streets with the buggy! Not such an easy task in Ouro Preto...
Finally, Maira bought some of the beautiful imperial topaz gems that you can see at the top of the post here and on the imperial topaz shop of our site. Going to visit Ouro Preto and see where the gems came from allowed her to ensure that their origins and quality were the very best possible, in order to make a great selection of these exclusive gems available to you on the website! More coming soon… which is a good excuse for our next visit to Ouro Preto, already scheduled for December!