Topaz has a complex history, and is often confused with other gemstones. Prior to the modern era, the name Topaz was used primarily to describe yellow or orange colored stones, but today we know the stone comes in a rainbow of colors, both natural and heat-enhanced. The various colors of Topaz have been explored by metaphysical healers relatively recently so there are no known myths or stories associated with them.
The name Topaz has two possible origins. It may come from an island in the Red Seas, which during the Roman era was called Topazios, but today is called Zabargad. This island was famous during the Roman Era for its Peridot mines, but did not produce any Topaz stones. The name Topazios comes from the Greek word “to guess”, likely a reference to the fact that the island is often shrouded and hidden by fog. Alternatively, it may come from the Sanskrit topas, meaning “fire.” Prior to the advent of modern mineralogy, most references to Topaz described it as a golden or orange colored stone, so the fire reference makes sense.
Though Topaz is occasionally mentioned in early lapidaries, few of these texts list any healing properties which are specifically associated with the stone. It was apparently used to ward off the evil eye, and could protect a person from curses and liver trouble. During the medieval period, the lore concerning Topaz was expanded upon. It was said to cool boiling water, become invisible when in contact with poison, and cure everything from asthma and hemorrhoids to insomnia and the plague. Its powers were seemingly linked to the moon, and thus waxed and waned according to the lunar phases.
Topaz is mentioned in both the Bible and the Torah, as the second of twelve stones which decorated the breastplate of the High Priest of ancient Israel. The design for the Breastplate was given by God to Moses, whose brother Aaron was the first to wear it. Each of the gemstones on the Breastplate was inscribed with the symbol for one of the Twelves Tribes of Israel. Topaz was most likely inscribed with the Tribe of Simeon. In later Christian lore, Topaz was thought to correspond to the apostle Matthew. According to Saint Hildegarde (1098-1179), a German Benedictine Abbess, writer, and philosopher, Topaz’s light is so bright that it can be used to illuminate a dark chapel, thus allowing her to read prayers. She recommended that a Topaz elixir be used to brighten dim vision and other eye ailments.
Julie Abouzelof is the owner of Moonrise Crystals and an advocate for responsibly sourced gems and minerals. Her first career was in education teaching history, geology and anthropology, as well as working with special-needs students. She is now a heart-centered entrepreneur who encourages mindfulness and positive action to heal ourselves and the world. Julie lives in Hawaii with her lover and a little parrot named Darwin.