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November Birthstone

The Egyptians believed that they were droplets of sunlight fallen to Earth and considered them sacred to the god, Ra. The Romans, too, believed the brilliant yellow gems were sacred to their sun god, Jupiter. Yellow topaz sparkles with the brilliant flare of captured sunlight.

Famed for its ability to confer clarity of thought and sight to its wearer, yellow topaz is the natural stone associated with the birth sign Virgo, as well as with those born in the month of November - Scorpio and Sagittarius. Given its brightness by the sun, topaz was said to imbue its wearers with the ability to see through glamours and magical spells, revealing the truth. In that capacity, yellow topaz also was said to reveal poison by changing color in its presence, and alert the person who wore it to dangerous intentions from those around him.

The ancient Greeks also believed that the topaz had the power to increase strength and endurance, making it a stone for the faithful and constant. Its association with the life-giving warmth of the sun also made the topaz popular as a healing stone. Among the ills that topaz was said to cure were asthma, insomnia, depressions and hemorrhages. Like the sun and fire for which the stone is named, topaz is said to alleviate worries and lighten hearts, brightening the day of any who see it.

Topaz was one of the 12 stones set into the Breastplate of Aaron, representing the tribe of Simeon. It is known as the 'sunset stone', named for its glorious range of colors from pale yellow to lemon to the deep russet orange and pink of the sunset sky. With the magic healing and illuminating energies of the sun, the topaz is the perfect stone to light a spark to November's days.

Topaz is aluminum silicate that gets its color from the inclusion of oxygen, fluorine, hydrogen, silicon or aluminum. It measures an 8 on the Mohs hardness scale, making it one of the harder gemstones, not far behind sapphires and rubies.

If the sparkle of sun brings a smile to your face, and the warmth of fire inspires creativity in your heart, then you may be a true child of topaz, despite your birth date. Yellow and orange stones bring happiness, brightness and warmth to a cold month. Why not wear them, no matter your birthstone?

Topaz comes in a wide variety of colors including blue, clear and green, but the yellow topaz is the birthstone for November. Yellow is the most common topaz color - a warm, deep shade of sunlight yellow. Topaz is mined in Brazil, Russia, Australia, Africa, Burma (Myanmar), China, Japan, Sri Lanka and the United States. The yellow varieties are most common in Brazil.

Heat treating topaz to set and deepen color is not uncommon, but should be noted when the stone is sold. Because of its wide availability, it's not difficult to find topaz that is 'eye clean' - showing no inclusions to the unassisted eye.

Yellow topaz buying guide

Take the time to examine topaz under different light sources to judge its true color. Ask if the gem has been color treated - this is rarer with yellow topaz than with other stones, but it does happen. Also be aware that unscrupulous sellers may try to pass off citrine or quartz as topaz. If possible, have the stone appraised to be certain you're getting topaz.

Yellow topaz should be a rich, deep yellow with good clarity and few to no visible inclusions. The most valuable stones are a midtone in hue, but let your eye guide you to the colors that you like the best.

Caring for your topaz

Like diamonds, topaz exhibit perfect basal cleavage - a single, sharp blow from the right direction will split the stone cleanly and perfectly along a cleavage line. For that reason, it's important to always protect your topaz from hard knocks and strikes.

Everyday caution

Remove topaz jewelry when doing housework, cleaning, yard work or any other physical activity that exposes it to the possibility of being struck or damaged.

Avoid harsh household chemicals and cleaners, makeup and lotions and cleaning chemicals while wearing topaz jewelry.

Cleaning topaz

Topaz should be cleaned with warm water and mild dishwashing detergent, or with a commercial jewelry cleaner. Avoid steam cleaning and ultrasonic cleaning, both of which can damage the color of the stone. Soak the piece in warm soapy water for ten to twenty minutes, then scrub lightly with a soft tooth brush before rinsing with clear water.

Storing topaz

Long exposure to bright sun can darken or pale the color of topaz. Despite its relative hardness as a gemstone, topaz should be protected from other gems and jewelry in your jewelry box. Store in its own pouch or box.