The Topaz is found in various colours - white, yellow, pink, green, and black; but it is in the first three colours that they are familiar in general use as gems.
The best stones come from Brazil and Mexico, but they are also found in Siberia, India, and many parts of Europe and Great Britain. The most valuable is the pink variety, which is found naturally in South America; but it has been discovered that some of the yellow species can be artificially changed to this colour under a special treatment of heat.
The white topaz of Brazil is found in pebble form, free from flaws, and is a very hard bright stone capable of receiving a very high polish. It is sometimes taken for a diamond, and is known in its native country as the Slave's Diamond, although it is not equal to the diamond in brilliancy and iridescence.
A saffron - yellow variety found in Ceylon, known as the Indian Topaz, has always been popular throughout India as a Talisman, being worn for health, caution, sagacity, and the prevention of sudden death. Because of these same qualities its favour is equally strong throughout Burmah, and it is always included in the Nan-Ratan, the sacred nine-stone jewel, which forms the most important ornament in the Burmese regalia, as may be seen in the jewels which are now on exhibition at the Indian Museum, South Kensington.
According to Pliny, the Topaz derives its name from the Island of Topazos in the Red Sea, where it was first found, and he says Topazein, in the Troglodyte tongue, means "to seek after," the island being so often lost amidst fogs. Some pirates who were weatherbound on this island and hard-pressed by famine, in tearing up roots for food accidentally discovered the stone. From the descriptions which have been handed down to us it is believed that the Chrysolite was frequently used in mistake for the Topaz, and as the Zodiacal Houses the two stones represent are in harmony with each other, the Chrysolite will also be a favourable stone for the subjects of Sagittarius.
Gabelschoverus mentions that the Emperor Hadrian, whose reign was one of the most prosperous and peaceful in Roman history, and who was most ardent in spreading Christianity, even writing an address to his soul on his death-bed (which inspired Pope's poem, "The Dying Christian to his Soul"), used as a Talisman an antique ring set with a Topaz which was engraved in Roman letters with the words natura - deficit, - Fortuna - Mutatur, - Deus - Omnia - Cernit, an expression of faith in the Almighty to overrule Nature and Fortune most appropriate to the owner of the ring.
Fresh air was as much a necessity to the ancient as to the modern subjects of Sagittarius, as is shown from the fact that the Romans wore this gem as a preservative from pestilential atmosphere, also to protect its wearer against perils and dangers in travelling, injuries from burns and scalds, and to avert all complaints of the chest and bowels.
The Topaz was called by Pliny "The Stone of Strength," and he describes as the most valuable, stones that have a predominating tint of orange in their colouring. Albertus Magnus recommends it as a cure for gout, and Camillus Leonardus as a charm against haemorrhoids, lunacy, and sudden death; also to bring riches to its wearers, and the favours of princes.
During the Middle Ages it was believed to dispel enchantments if set in gold and bound on the left arm or hung round the neck. It preserved from sensuality, calmed anger and frenzy, strengthened the intellect, brightened the wit, gave joyous-ness and contentment, and drove away broodings and apprehensions. It was also worn as a cure for asthma, and as a specific against insomnia, being sometimes powdered and taken in wine.
Marbodus renders its virtues in verse, translated by the Rev. C. W. King, as follows:
"The Topaz is a jewel rare And therefore must be bought full dear. Made up of hues of golden light, And with Celestial lustre bright, Here see the man on study bent, A life in contemplation spent".