November’s Birthstone: Autumn’s Gold is Precious Topaz

Rich Colours of Fall Leaves

Rich Colours of Fall Leaves

When November leaves drop in sudden gusts
Like a red and yellow flock of birds
– Thomas R Drinkard

I am rich today with autumn’s gold
Gladys Harp

November’s birthstone is the precious topaz, inspiring poets to write about a gemstone that dazzles through a range of magnificent autumn colours – shades of yellow, pink, purple, red, brown and black, the rich colours of falling leaves. In the Northern Hemisphere, these colours of autumn are the shades of the harvest and many a designer’s inspiration.

Deep topaz

Imperial Topaz RoughThe origins of the word ‘topaz’ are lost to history, increasing the mystery around this stone. Theorists ask if it comes from the Romans, who might have found the stone on a small island the in the Red Sea called Topazos. Some postulate it came from the Sanskrit word “tapas”, which means fire.

The Hebrew word ‘tapooz’, an orange fruit may be the answer.  Whatever the true origin of the word and the discovery of this wonderful gemstone, the topaz has much to offer its wearer with its rich variety of autumn colours and fascinating folklore and history.

Ancient History

The Romans associated topaz with their King of the Gods, Jupiter.  They believed that if topaz was near poisoned food or drink it would change colour and alert the stone’s wearer to the danger.  Set in gold and worn around the neck, topaz was reputed to dispel bad omens, heal poor vision and calm anger.

Yellow Topaz

Yellow Topaz

In Egypt, topaz with its brilliant golden glow and fiery intensity was symbolic of the sun god, Ra, giver of life.

During the Middle Ages, the topaz was used mostly by royalty and clergy. In the 13th century it was believed that a topaz engraved with a falcon would help its wearer foster the goodwill of kings, therefore bestowing peace and prosperity to the land. The topaz was often used in the crowns and rings worn by rulers, dignitaries and royalty.


Topaz Source Minas Gerais, Brazil

Topaz Source Minas Gerais, Brazil

Topaz’s folklore suggests it was a very powerful and magical stone indeed. It was believed to strengthen the mind, increase wisdom, and prevent mental disorders. Powdered topaz, added to wine, was used to prevent asthma and insomnia. A cure for weak vision called for immersing the stone in wine for three days and nights, then rubbing the liquid on the eyes.

It was reputed to make men handsome and intelligent and sterile women fertile and happy. The topaz was believed to have the power to cool boiling water. However, it was also claimed that you could put your hand in boiling water after a topaz had been thrown into it and retract it again uninjured.  Perhaps one might be prudent not to rely on the miracles of topaz!

Meaning, Significance and Symbolism Of The November Birthstone

The November birthstone is known for its associated qualities of strength, tenacity, dedication and resilience.  The gemstone is used to enhance spirituality, promote wisdom and bestow clear thought and reasoning prowess on the wearer of the stone.

Stone of the Czars

JAR Imperial Topaz Earrings

JAR Imperial Topaz Earrings

The most prized and valuable colour of topaz is called Imperial topaz after the Russian Czars of the 1800s and features a magnificent orange body colour with pinkish undertones.  The most valuable is the red topaz.

Imitation Diamond

Pure topaz is a colorless stone and when brilliantly cut is often mistaken for a diamond. It can be treated through a recognised and legitimate practice in the marketplace, with heat and radiation to produce a strong blue colour, making affordable blue topaz. Untreated natural strong blue gems are extremely rare and valuable.

Where is it Mined?

Brazil is the largest producer of topaz in the world.  Russia, the Ukraine, Pakistan, Scotland, Japan, Australia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka are a few important topaz sources and exporters.

What you Need to Know

Some colours are unstable and can fade away; for example, brown topaz mined in Siberia can be bleached by sunlight.  Make sure to source topaz from a gemologist who can attest to its provenance and explain how to treat it.

Caring for Your Topaz

The best way to clean topaz is with warm soapy water. Never clean topaz in a home ultrasonic cleaner or a steamer. It is important that the stone be protected from any sort of exposure to rapid temperature change, acids, or heat. A topaz stone will start to lose its colour if kept out in the sun or exposed to other kinds of heat. Topaz is hard and durable in jewellery.  However, it can crack if struck, so handle your topaz with care.

Consider Topaz for a Gift

Imperial Topaz Cocktail Ring - Brumani

Imperial Topaz Cocktail Ring – Brumani

As well as its interesting history and folklore, consider the durability and value for money when thinking about a gift. With so many beautiful colours to choose from, topaz jewellery makes a special gift for a birthday, anniversary or special occasion.  Imperial topaz is associated with the 23rd anniversary.

In November, the beautiful hues of topaz match with the days of autumn. With this guide and the help of your favourite gemologist, you can make an excellent choice for your fall collection.

Dede Marconato Signature

Handmade Pieces by Dede MarconatoDede Marconato is a  goldsmith and works at her studio bench in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.  Dede is also a Graduate Gemologist from the prestigious Gemological Institute of America.

If you are interested in learning more information about gemstones or designing a custom piece, please contact her at

October’s Birthstone: Tourmaline, Gemstone of the Rainbow

Radiant Pink Tourmaline

Radiant Pink Tourmaline

Few gemstones are endowed with the reputed magical properties and ancient cultural bonds with man as those boasted by the tourmaline, October’s gemstone. Imbued with heritage, history, and a mystical aura, tourmaline gems are known for their free and vibrant colour.

The name tourmaline originated from the Sinhalese word “Turmali”, which was used to describe mixed gems and was the name given to all coloured gemstones found in Ceylon, modern Sri Lanka. The name was adopted by Dutch merchants in the 17th century who shipped vast quantities of the gemstone to satisfy growing European demand for mineral curiosities.

Tourmaline Rough PebblesKnown as the “gemstone of the rainbow”, tourmalines are found in an unmatched array of colours which, according to Egyptian legend, resulted from passing through a rainbow during its ancient journey upwards from the centre of the Earth. It is also found in combinations of two or three colours within the same stone, making it the dream of jewelry designers everywhere to work with tourmaline.

The “Ceylonese Magnet”

For over a thousand years, various cultures across the globe have had different interactions with tourmaline, shaping an intimate bond between stone and man that defines the gemstone today.

In medieval Europe, it was widely believed that tourmaline possessed medical power, such as the ability to alleviate physical and mental maladies, prevent death, induce a peaceful sleep and dispel fear, negativity and grief. Alchemists prized it for its apparent relation to the legendary philosopher’s stone due to it becoming electrically charged when heated and then cooled. It was also called the “Ceylonese Magnet” by European explorers who were baffled at the phenomenon of tourmaline attracting and repelling hot ashes, later proved to be caused by its unique pyroelectric properties.

Russian Crown Jewels

Russian Crown Jewels with Rubellite Tourmaline

Because of the wide variety of colours that tourmalines are found in, they are often confused with other gems, such as rubies. Originally believed to be rubies, the Russian Crown jewels from the 17th century were later revealed to be rubellite tourmalines.

The Empress and her Tourmaline

Aside from uses in alchemy and jewelry in Europe, a long and flourishing tradition of manufacturing luxury products using tourmaline existed in China. The Chinese have used it to produce exquisite jewellery, decorate intricate snuff bottles and statuettes, and embellish ornate buttons for robes worn by the royal court and noblemen. The gemstone found a special admirer in Empress Dowager Cixi, the last empress of China who ruled from 1861 to 1908. She was especially fond of the rubellite tourmaline, so much so that she ordered nearly a ton of the gemstone to be shipped across the Pacific from a mine in San Diego, California. Unwilling to part with her gems even in death, the Empress was laid to rest on a pillow carved from pink tourmaline.

Tourmaline Today

GIA Paraiba Colour

Electric Paraiba Tourmaline, Courtesy GIA

In 1989, Brazilian miners discovered a new kind of tourmaline unlike any before it. Known as Paraiba tourmaline, this spectacular gemstone is found in bright shades of cyan and green. It is now one of the rarest gemstones in the world and eagerly sought after by connoisseur collectors. The largest cut Paraiba tourmaline in the world, known as the Ethereal Carolina Divine Paraiba, is owned by Montreal financier Vincent Boucher. It weighs nearly 192 carats is valued between $25 million and $125 million USD.

In modern times, the gemstone is also used by tribal shamans in Africa and aboriginal groups in Australia as a talisman that protects against all dangers, while Native Americans continue a millennia-old tradition of using pink and green tourmalines as funeral gifts.

As the traditional home of the gemstone, Sri Lanka is still considered an important source of gem-quality tourmaline. However, today’s biggest suppliers of tourmaline are Brazil, Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, Madagascar and Afghanistan.

Treatments for Tourmalines

Heat treatment may be used on some tourmaline gems, especially pink to red colored stones, to enhance their color. Clarity-enhancing treatments using oil to make rubellite and Brazilian paraiba appear less included are not uncommon.  Clarity-enhancing treatment significantly devalues the gemstone (especially paraiba). When considering a purchase of expensive rubellite and paraiba, make sure to ask your jeweller if the gemstone has been treated and how. These gemstones should be accompanied by certification from a reliable lab such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). While treatments are common and acceptable, they should always be disclosed so consumers know what they are paying for.

Tourmaline in Contemporary Jewellery

Tourmaline and Diamond Cross in 18 Karat White Gold, Designer Dede Marconato

Tourmaline and Diamond Cross in 18 Karat White Gold, Designer Dede Marconato

The stunning diversity of colours offered by the tourmaline affords the contemporary jeweller a plethora of design options. Beautiful autumn colours of jazzy greens, pastel yellows and deep reds make this gemstone a superb choice for striking pendants, earrings, and rings. For a more contemporary style, I love to mix the colours and use cabochons, smoothly polished, non faceted gems, in big bold pieces like the Cixi Cross. These gorgeous colours in the gems magnify the colours in the wearer’s eyes, making the gems a must-have addition to any jewellery box. Wear tourmaline with formal wear or wear it to dress up jeans. For an artful and affordable option, consider versatile tourmaline over diamond for a one of a kind contemporary engagement ring.

Dramatic Watermelon Tourmaline

Dramatic Watermelon Tourmaline

Bi-coloured tourmaline can also be given as an 8th wedding anniversary stone.

Caring for Your Tourmaline Jewellery

As tourmaline possesses many natural internal characteristics – especially the pink and red gemstones – ultrasonic cleaning machines should not be used. Tourmaline can be cleaned with most commercial jewellery cleaner or plain soap and water using a soft brush.

Dede Marconato Signature

Dede Marconato, Jewellery Designer, Hong Kong

Dede at her bench in Hong Kong

Dede Marconato is a Graduate Gemologist from the prestigious Gemological Institute of America. As a goldsmith, Dede works at her studio bench in Sheung Wan.

If you are interested in learning more information about tourmalines or designing a custom piece, please contact her at

Peridot: A Goddess’s Tears are August’s Gemstone

Peridot Earrings, Dede Marconato

From ancient Egypt to Hawaii’s beaches, peridot is a striking green gemstone with a fascinating history. Peer into peridot’s romantic story.

Evil spirits that plagued ancient Egyptians were kept at bay by a powerful charm: peridot. This magnificent green gemstone has been mined even since Biblical times, when it was known as chrysolite. In 1912, it became the official gemstone of August. To commemorate the gem’s history and power, Dede Marconato Contemporary Design has drawn on the Hawaiian legends of a fiery goddess to create “Pele’s Tears”.

Ancient Egypt
Peridot was a powerful element in the life of ancient Egyptians, and not just as jewellery. A very spiritual stone in Ancient Egypt, peridot drinks were especially popular among priests of the goddess Isis. Drinking crushed peridot was believed to bring them closer to nature, bring happiness, attract love and foster friendships.

Queen Cleopatra was described as adorned in emerald jewellery. Historians and gemologists have hotly debated whether her emeralds were, in fact, mostly peridots, given that both were mined in Egypt during her reign.

Ancient Rome
Imperial adoration wasn’t limited to the Pharaonic era. The ancient Romans were quite fond of the gemstone and coveted the brilliant green sparkle. They nicknamed the stone “Evening Emerald”. The Romans believed that peridot burned with an inner fire that would glow at night. In some ancient cultures miners searched for peridot during the early evening or at night when they said it was the easiest to find.

Ancient Hawaii
Halfway around the world, peridot crystals had a more mystical quality. It was once believed that the green peridot crystals found in volcanic ashes were the tears of Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, fire and lightning. When set in gold, this gem is said to protect the wearer from nightmares.

Today, the island of Oahu’s beaches consist of tiny grains of peridot. Although Hawaii’s volcanoes have produced some peridot large enough to be cut into gemstones, virtually all peridot sold in Hawaii today is from Arizona.

Contemporary Jewellery

Pele's Tear's Peridot EarringsThe spirit of the story, however, still inspires modern jewellers who feel for Pele’s tears. I have channeled my inner volcanic goddess, and designed a peridot collection called Pele’s Tears. While traveling in Burma, the perfect peridot specimens caught my eye. As a gemologist, I collect gems that tell a story and felt these gems spoke to me.

My story – Pele’s story – took the form of a beautiful pair of peridot earrings, 6.24 carats set in 18 karat gold with 0.24 carats of G colour diamonds. The force of the volcano can be felt in their striking and contemporary form. Their brilliance matches the summer sun, making them perfect for a summer combination – and perfect to be August’s birthstone.

16th Anniversary
If you are married do not forget that peridot is the anniversary gemstone for the 16th year of marriage. A beautiful ring, pendant or pair of earrings look stunning set in yellow gold. Harkening back to the mystique of ancient Egypt, the gems bring the wearer success, peace, good luck, and most importantly, helps his or her dreams to become true. They are a wonderful and heartfelt gift for a loved one.

The wellspring of the tears
Zabargard (St. John’s Island), Egypt produces some of the prized versions of the gem. The island was rediscovered about 100 years ago and small quantities of peridot are still produced there. Today gem quality peridot also comes from Arizona, Burma, China and Pakistan.

Caring for Your Peridot Jewellery
Like all gems, peridot must be treated with respect. Steam cleaning is not recommended as rapid or extreme temperature change can crack or break peridot. The best method for cleaning stones is to wash with warm soapy water, rinse and dry with a soft cloth.

Whether it is the tears of the goddess that move you, the connection to ancient queens and Pharoahs or simply its brilliance in a gold setting, peridot is a gemstone that is a vital addition to your summer collection.

Dede Marconato Signature