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Pink Topaz

Ever since blue topaz, the copious and affordable gem that owes its color to irradiation, took the jewelry world by storm in the 1980s, the trade has been hoping that a treatment could be discovered that could make pink topaz just as plentiful and inexpensive.

But it is one thing to coax deep-blue from dirt-cheap, abundant colorless topaz and another to coax deep-pink from not-so-cheap, not-so-common precious topaz. Dealers versed in color-craft have long been heating precious topaz, especially flesh and salmon-colored stones, to remove obtrusive browns and oranges leaving just the permanent pink. This method is generations old. What’s more, it’s pretty low-tech, requiring heat sources like a gas flame that are no more sophisticated than a Sterno can (although we caution readers against any experimentation with heat treatment to change the color of their stones).

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, may have been improved by heat. (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. Incidentally, the species-name topaz may derive from the Sanskrit word for fire, tapas, a reference to its fiery orange color.)

So if both pink and blue topaz are color enhanced, why is the former so very much more expensive than the latter?

The answer is simple: Topaz transformable into pink stones costs a lot more than topaz transformable into blue ones. The reason it costs more is limited supply. Not just of precious topaz, but precious topaz with an essential coloring agent: chromium, the same trace element responsible for red in ruby. Relatively few stones from Brazil have this trace element in enough quantity for what dealers there call “pinking.” On the other hand, gem-rich Pakistan holds promise as source of pink topaz, much of it so purely pink to begin with no enhancement is needed.

Brazilian Blush

Topaz that can be turned pink seems only to come from Brazil, much of it from one mining locality: Oro Preto.

According to one treatment whiz, stones most responsive to heat are the intense fiery-golden kind known as imperial topaz. “I’ve never seen a piece of imperial topaz that didn’t turn pink,” he says. Unfortunately, this material is so expensive that it doesn’t pay to heat it. So dealers experiment with less costly material.

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Pink Topaz