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Stones of Fate and Fortune : Topaz of Brazil


#1

For those of you who got the opportunity to watch it I wonder if you
share my amazement. Well done Hans!

I can’t wait to see “Green fever : The Columbian Emerald” in one
week. What really amused me was the camera over the people plucking
the topaz crystals from the gravel. This got me to wondering about
the authenticity of the Imperial topaz I have in my “collection”.
They are yellow as opposed the the prized orange stones. Which brings
me to my question: How much does it cost to get stones tested and
appraised by places such as the “Canadian Gemmological Association”,
and what experiences have you had doing so?

Jon in Montreal


#2
This got me to wondering about the authenticity of the Imperial
topaz I have in my "collection". They are yellow as opposed the
the prized orange stones. 

In August a friend from Dallas came down to Brasil and we went to
visit the world’s largest Imperial Topaz mine (Mina do Cap=E3o) in the
Ouro Preto region of Minas Gerais. It is an open pit mine and they
use power equipment (Bull dozers, drag shovels) and high pressure
hoses etc. My friend got many many pictures and promised to put them
on his web site - but still hasn’t done so yet - maybe this reminder
will give him the little extra push to get it down. He is on this
forum also. I have some digital pictures of the mine but no web site
and he is a much more accomplished photographer than I am. On his
next trip down, we will probably go to visit some of the smaller
Imperial Topaz mines. We’ve also gone to visit the Emerald Mines and
the amethyst geode mines.

As to the colors of Imperial Topaz (as it is called here in Brasil)

  • it comes in many shades from the yellow you mentioned through
    oranges, to reds and pinks and even purples (very rare). There are
    even some bi-colored material every once in a while (purple-orange).
    Lapidary Journal published pictures of two large bi-colored Imperial
    Topazes that I sold to an Arizona dealer several years back.
    Unfortunately the photographer or the printing process completely
    distorted the original colors of the stones, which are purple-orange
    and I believe 14+ and 11+ carats. The same photograph appeared
    recently in a very elegant photograph book of collection quality
    stones - though the owner of the stones was not too happy as she had
    not been credited in the book.

We bought a pocket of Purple Topaz terminated mineral specimens
several years back and have been selling them slowly at the Tucson
Shows. They are deep purple color - but unfortunately they will not
yield any worthwhile faceted stones. The material that could be
faceted was skimmed off before we got the chance to buy the pocket.
On our trip in August I saw some of the faceted purple topaz, but
the price was on the order of USD$ 5,000.00/carat. We had some of
the faceted reds and deep orange-reds at the last February Tucson
show - 10 to 30 carat stones.

Even some green topaz crystals have been found in Brasil. At one of
the Tucson Shows - the featured mineral at the Tucson Gem and
Mineral Society show was Topaz and the owner of the Vermelh=E3o Mine
(an American) had his Topaz collection there including some green
Topaz crystals.

Best regards,
Robert Lowe,
Lowe Associates - Brasil,
Gemstones-Rough-Specimens,
Tucson-February 5-10, 2004 at GJX # 205
e-mail: USA robertplowejr@juno.com February 2004
e-mail: Brasil <@Robert_P_Lowe_Jr1>


#3

Robert, Have also been to Rodrigo Silva and visited the "Big Lid"
mine along with Garimpo and a couple of smaller sites in Mariana.
Think the article I did for Gem Market News in on my website:
www.rwwise.com

When it came to writing about Topaz in my new book I decided to
simply ignore the terms “imperial” and “precious”. I have heard two
definitions of “imperial”. One that “imperial” is a word for yellow
in Portuguese and the other that imperial is topaz w/ strong
multi-color (dichroic) effect. That is, the darker end colors due to
the darker C axis in oval and pear shaped stones. Point is, if you
can’t define it, it isn’t useful. This terminology is archaic and
really not-helpful in explaining quality in topaz.

Point is, you have a color range as you describe from a sunny yellow
through orange to pinkish-orange, orange and finally pinkish-red and
occasionally sherry red. Or, golden to light peach, ripe peach,
rotten peach, etc. Rarity increases along this same continuum.

What you say about purple is interesting. Mostly I have seen purple
lumped in with pink in parcels as many people can’t seem to see the
difference between light pink and light purple. Will have to come by
your booth next Tucson. Would love to see the sort of b-colors you
describe.

Richard


#4

Interesting comments about Brazilian imperial topaz. Question: does
Brazil also have citrine? I have a bracelet and pendant set from the
50’s that was made by a Brazilian jeweler, and I always thought of it
as citrine. It’s a dark golden yellow, not at all peach; fairly large
emerald cut stones. Could they be imperial topaz, or would they be
more likely to be citrine?

Janet Kofoed


#5
When it came to writing about Topaz in my new book I decided to
simply ignore the terms "imperial" and "precious".  I have heard
two definitions of "imperial".  One that "imperial" is a word for
yellow in Portuguese and the other that imperial is topaz w/ strong
multi-color (dichroic) effect.  That is, the darker end colors due
to the darker C axis in oval and pear shaped stones.  Point is, if
you can't define it, it isn't useful. This terminology is archaic
and really not-helpful in explaining quality in topaz." 

Hi Richard (and others curious about this nomenclature), Actually,
the term does have considerable merit, and there is most likely a
historical method to its labeling madness. Topaz occurs in a wide
range of hues and saturations, with or without secondary hues,
called “modifiers”. Yellow Topazes are correctly called just that,
as are the blues, browns, pinks, goldens and purples. The true
"Imperial" classification, however, only applies to those yellows
and goldens which have a readily identifiable peachy, to russet
cast, due to a reddish modifier (or secondary color). This secondary
color can be heat treated to overpower, or even completely replace,
the yellow or golden primary color; when this occurs, the resulting
color is most often either a pink or purple shade. (And yes, as is
the case with Tanzanite, there are those cases in which this heat
treatment occurs naturally, while the minerals are still in the
ground.) As such, the variously-hued golden-brown Topazes from
Guerrero, Mexico or parts of Nigeria would best (and most honestly)
be called “rootbeer”, brown, “sherry” or golden Topazes, while those
from both Ouro Preto, Brazil and only one or two other sites on the
planet remain the only true sources for Imperial Topaz. So, the next
time you look at a stone that’s been labeled “Imperial Topaz”, you
can have the following conversation with yourself: “What? It doesn’t
have a reddish hue? Simple: it’s not a true ‘Imperial’!” (Of course,
I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether to have this conversation
quietly, or audibly…) As for the origin of the word “Imperial”, I
honestly don’t believe it has anything to do with yellow, or pink or
any other shade; it simply means “of, belonging to or having to do
with the Emperor” (or, more recently, the king and/or queen). While
I don’t know any of the de facto details of Brazilian history
(especially as they relate to these finest-of-fine Topazes), I think
it’s reasonable to deduce that, when they were first discovered,
several hundred years ago, these Topazes’ beauty and rarity won them
immediate favor with the Portuguese crown, just as the Colombian
Emerald discoveries did with the Spanish crown, earning them the
title of Imperial Emerald. At the time of their discovery, Emeralds
(and the best of most other gem families) were the exclusive domain
of royalty, so the best of the best in any mineral family could
quite easily have come to be labeled as either the property of, or
destined to be worn only by those of imperial stature. I hope this
helps to demystify this term and it’s meaning (or lack thereof).

All my best, Douglas Turet, GJ Another Bright Idea! / Turet Design P.O.
Box 162 Arlington, MA 02476 Tel. (617) 325-5328 eFax (928) 222-0815
anotherbrightidea@hotmail.com


#6

Hello Richard, A couple of hundred years back there was a find of
pink/red topaz in Russia and the Imperial Russian crown decided that
it was all theirs and nobody else could have any, hence the name
Imperial Topaz

Incidentally Bishop’s Amethyst (church purple) is named for the same
type of restriction for none ecclesiastical ownership of the finest
coloured amethyst.

Neither name describes quality just right of ownership. It gets
worse with stones such as Kunzite, Morganite and Alexandrite, named
after people who aren’t able to sell you any. Agate, Chalcedony and
Turquoise, named after places where it’s almost impossible to find
them. Seems to me there’s a lot of rocks to rename to get rid of all
that romantic rubbish that the jewellery buying public seems to
crave. Personally I could care less what you call my stones, after I
get paid. grin.

Oh yeah, What a terrific show that was. I hope the rest of the
series is equally entertaining and educational. Well done Hans, my
hat is off to you!

Tony.


#7
Imperial Russian crown decided that it was all theirs and nobody
else could have any, hence the name Imperial Topaz." 

Untrue - the decision to use the name Imperial was a recent
marketing decision. “Bishop’s Amethyst” is also a neologism.

Tony Konrath
Key West Florida 33040


#8

I cannot find any reference to the use of the word “Imperial” in
relationship to topaz dating back further than about fifteen years
or so… Odd? The same seems to be true of the use in conjunction
with emeralds.

No European monarchs, other than Napoleon and the British crown,
have used the title of Emperor or Empress so I doubt that it comes
from their usage. I remain firmly convinced that the use of this term
is simply a marketing term coined fairly recently.

Unless, of course, someone knows otherwise…?

Tony Konrath
Key West Florida 33040


#9

The documentary states that imperial topaz is only found in 1
location, Ouro Preto Brazil, north of Rio de Janeiro.


#10
The documentary states that imperial topaz is only found in 1
location, Ouro Preto Brazil, north of Rio de Janeiro.

…which confirms my suspicion that this is simply a marketing
term. When did the mine(s) open? What connection does it/they have
with the royal houses of Europe or S. America? Simply because a
documentary repeats a claim from someone does not make the statement
correct.

I’ve nothing against marketing but how many more spurious
designations do we have to put up with? How many more “species” of
agate are going to be squabbled over when difference between them is
just the pattern of conglomerated microcrystals?

It just reminds me of the names that paint manufacturers give to
their different hues and hair colorists use to designate their
bleaches and tints.

Tony Konrath
Key West Florida 33040


#11

Hi Tony,

Would the original 1968 printing of John Sinkankas’ “Van Nostrand’s
Standard Catalog of Gems” suffice? On page 104, the late Mr.
Sinkankas wrote:

  "TOPAZ -- Most expensive when the hues are purplish-red or
  strong reddish orange, the latter often called "imperial";
  also expensive when pink or purple..." 

As far as the moniker of “Bishop’s Amethyst” is concerned, I’d first
heard that label back in the early to mid-1960’s, when a friend of
my grandmother’s, who owned and operated a professional lapidary
shop in New York, explained that back when he was a kid, any
Amethysts with strongly reddish-purple hues were considered both
extremely rare and practically the exclusive domain of bishops in
the Catholic church. According to him, the lighter and medium
colored goods were more easily found, just as they are today, but
the rich, reddish-purples were almost unheard of, and the only place
you’d expect to see them was on the hands of the more senior clergy.
This may well have been before wider distribution of the better
Siberian and Zambian finds made them both readily accessible and
easily attainable, and was certainly long before those (gag) ugly,
grape-jelly-colored hydrothermal quartzes were everywhere.

Since I was only born in 1960, and my passion for minerals and gems
didn’t begin in earnest until five or six years later, I can’t
be too sure what the earlier norms were, other than what I’ve heard
and read from others. And, since I can’t recall where it was that I’d
first read or heard the term, “Imperial Emeralds” (although it may
well have been in either one of Paul DeSautels’ books or a National
Geographic Magazine featur ;on either Emeralds or sunken treasure,
back in the 1970’s), it’s certainly possible that I’ve ;made a
mistake on that one. Even if so, I am quite certain that the original
South American Emerald and gold finds were considered the sole
posessions of the monarchies which underwrote their claimers’
conquests.

Douglas Turet, GJ
Another Bright Idea! / Turet Design
P.O. Box 162
Arlington, MA 02476
Tel. (617) 325-5328
eFax (928) 222-0815
anotherbrightidea@hotmail.com


#12
No European monarchs, other than Napoleon and the British crown,
have used the title of Emperor or Empress 

No, that’s incorrect: Brazil was colonised by the Portuguese, and
they used the title “Emperor XXXX of Brazil” (although I believe they
were normally referred to as “King YYYY” at home). So it wouldn’t
surprise me if the term “imperial” referred to the Portuguese monarch

  • although I have to say that I don’t myself know where the term
    comes from.

?:sunglasses:
-Michael.


#13
    I cannot find any reference to the use of the word "Imperial"
in relationship to topaz dating back further than about fifteen
years or so....Unless, of course, someone knows otherwise...? 

I know for certain the term was in use as early as 1978 – 25 years
ago. I recall seeing great quantities of it by that name at the
Tucson show. And I refer you to this quote from David Federman’s 1990
book “Consumer Guide to Colored Gemstones” page 227, about the heat
treatment of pink topaz:

“Because heating is relatively easy to perform once one is trained
to do it, it can be assumed that any pink topaz from Brazil, this
gem’s main modern producer, is colored more by man than nature.
(This assumption does not seem to hold for pink topaz from the Ural
Mountains of Russia, the leading source for this gem a century ago
and the origin country of the term ‘imperial topaz’ – so named to
honor the Czar…”) An independent account mentions topaz in the
Russian Royal Crown.

I don’t know Federman’s source but he’s still writing from his
redoubt at “Modern Jeweler.” Anyone who really wants to do the
research can email him and ask. I accept his account, based on
corroboration I recall from other writings I can’t locate at the
moment.

Now, what are we going to do about “Imperial” Jade?

Rick Martin
MARTIN DESIGNS


#14

Hello Tony,

    I cannot find any reference to the use of the word  "Imperial"
in relationship to topaz dating back further than about fifteen
years or so.... 

Lapidary Journal November 1963 page 799 Francis Hoover advertising
Brazilian Imperial Topaz faceting rough, slightly included $8.00
gm…drool Kurt Nassau 1980 Jewellers Circular Keystone 1981 September
page 24

Odd? The same seems to be true of the use in conjunction with
emeralds. 

I believe the more acceptable modern term Demantoid Garnet is now
used for the same reason the mostly American misnomer Brazilian Ruby
was replaced by the mostly European misnomer Imperial Topaz.

Untrue - the decision to use the name Imperial was a recent
marketing decision. 

It seems you are sort of correct. Internet search shows no dated,
named and documented support for the Czarist claim origin theory
that you reject. The internet does show much more support for it
than published works however, the most plausable origin I have
discovered points to the use of the term by P.C.F. (The King of
gemmological innuendo) who used it regarding ownership not
nomenclature. When this is added to the almost insignificant supply
which undoubtedly ended up on Faberge’s bench it is easy to see how
this could get romantic rather than factual.

"Bishop's Amethyst" is also a neologism. 

I think I got that wrong too, the name is Bishop’s Stone as
explained by G.F.Kunz but has more recently been replaced with
Bishop’s grade Amethyst which is as you say, a neological marketing
name. The wearing of things purple was restricted, not just Amethyst
that passed certain gemmological appraisal standards. For accurate
dates for the lifting of these restrictions for use by worthy but
non ecclesiastical families you will need to consult more heraldic
texts than I have access to. I can’t get much further back than the
1700’s.

The fun part is that in 1464 the Pope changed the Holy reserved
colour purple from the then Murex dyed crimson, a permanent
colouring achieved by a secret process known only to the people from
the Phoenician city of Tyr, to our current mix of red and blue
achieved at that time by using Cochineal dyes. The crimson Murex
dyed material was rare, expensive and permanent, the colour wouldn’t
wash out and the Romans called it Imperial Purple( I thought you’d
like that), The Pope was prompted to make his decision because of
the fall of Byzantium in 1453 which wiped out the Tyr dye industry.(
please no jokes about San Francisco in the late sixties which would
imply a terrible pun and suggest this post was merely a device to
use it)

I can find no details of whether or not the Pope gave away all his
rubies or replaced them with amethyst.

Luckily I am in a totally wholesale environment and almost never
encounter the horrors of retail marketing so I have no need to use,
know or research the delicate art of providing illuminating, florid
descriptions and anecdotes that entice and inspire sales. I fix sick
rocks. (yes I can say it 6 times real fast)

Tony.


#15

Dear Tony, No need to get uptight over trivia. The Imperial topaz
apellation is just as warranted as other names that are used to
distinguish amongst Topaz is very common throughout
Brazil but there is only one area that produces the Imperial type.
It may be that the Imperial designation was used to suggest that it
was a very special variety inasmuch as colored Topaz is uncommon
elsewhere in Brazil. It could also be that the Imperial designation
came about as a result of the Ouro Preto mines being near the
Imperial summer residence in Petropolis. Thus, the Imperial angle
suggests that this variety was uncommon. It all seems perfectly
logical to me !

Furthermore, when it comes to the plethora of types and variations in
the more common gemstones one does need to make distinctions in order
to communicate about specific variations. More often than not those
variations are characteristic of stones found in a given area or
region. Most knowledgeable rockhounds and/or gemologists as well as
ordinary collectors will be able to spot Bruneau jasper at a
distance. The same goes for Morgan Hill Jasper from California or
Ocean Jasper from Madagascar. or Condor agate from Argentina. “A’int
no problum mon!”

Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, Ca.


#16

Oops

The Portuguese don’t seem to have used the title of Emperor but when
Brazil asserted its independence of Portugal in 1822, it became an
empire under PEDRO I, son of the Portuguese King JOHN VI. It might
just be his usage.

Tony Konrath
Key West Florida 33040


#17

Hi Douglas,

Yes, you do know better - but…

Notice that Sinkankas says “often called” - far from a definitive
nomenclature. He doesn’t seem to use it in any official way, like
"emerald" for green beryls.

My own grandmother owned a wonderful necklace of deep purple
amethyst, it was a fairly common - if expensive stone - and any
museum with a good representative collection of jeweler from 1600 on
will have numerous examples.

As for emeralds, the finest and best are still the old Indian stones

  • far surpassing the South American material. Monarchies are not
    Empires! Kings and Queens may choose to nominate something as
    "royal" but up until the independence of India only Napoleon and
    Queen Victoria and their heirs were Emperors - and the Czars.

It is nit-picking but you get my drift? These names are applied to
"romance the stone."

Tony Konrath
Key West Florida 33040


#18

I have the original printing of the curious lore of precious
gemstones if you need info. i also have a rock collectors sample kit
from the early 60’s. it refers to rio grande topaz and imperial topaz
along with samples. i could find little difference between the
two stones. go figure. Ringman John Henry


#19

Ron, Ouro Preto is not near Petr=F3polis even today, and was even
farther in those times when the means of tranportation was a back of
a mule. Back into the eighteenth century, when the mines of central
Brazil were flourishing, there was not an emperor in Brazil, that
happened only in 1822, when was declared teh independence of the
colony and D. Pedro II called himself “Emperor of Brasil”. The
origins of the name “Imperial Topaz” comes probably from the fact
that, as all the product of the mines (except for gold, that paid
"only" 20% as tax), 100% of the gems were property of the royal
family. And the colour of that topaz is the color of the first
brazillian flag, and was the color of the royal family. They were
Orleans, that descended from a branch of the Orange dinasty in
France.

Priscilla in S=E3o Paulo, Brasil


#20

I know, I know, I get hissy fits when I hear salespeople in jewelers
shops trying to clinch a deal by using inappropriate slogans to
unsuspecting people. I get on a high horse, I go charging in,
forgetting to put my feet in the stirrups, and I come off on the
first hurdle.

But I think it important to keep our language clear and simple.
“Montana sapphire?” - OK, because it came from Montana, “pidgin’s
blood ruby?” maybe… just… but it’s a value judgment. “Imperial
Topaz?” No way!

Tony Konrath
Key West Florida 33040