Through the ages, topaz’s most popular and enduring mystical association has been with wealth. However, topaz symbolism and lore has also covered many other areas, such as health, love, and astrology. It’s also the November birthstone.
Before the 20th century, all yellow, brown, and orange transparent gems were called topazes. Modern gemology has defined topaz as a distinct gem species, chemically and physically. Although topazes come in many colors, such as rare pinks and reds, many people still associate these gems with yellow.
Most likely due to this color, some believed topaz had the mystical ability to attract gold. In particular, topazes set in gold purportedly did this most adeptly. Evidently. Presumably, esteem follows wealth, as topaz has been associated with royalty, too. In the Middle Ages, carved gemstones were believed to be natural wonders possessing special powers. For example, in the 13th century CE work, The Book of Wings, Ragiel writes:
The figure of a falcon, if on a topaz, helps to acquire the goodwill of kings, princes, and magnates.
If worn on the left arm, some believed a topaz amulet could protect the wearer from dark magic and (others’) greed. In addition, this could relieve arthritis pain, improve digestion, aid in weight loss, and attract love. If taken in a potion, some believed it could cure an even wider range of ailments.
St. Hildegard recommended the topaz as a cure for dim vision. After soaking a topaz in wine for three days and nights, rubbing the stone gently on the eyes would help. Perhaps this connection to vision helps explain another popular belief, that topaz could render its wearer invisible.
If kept in the home, some believed a topaz could ward off accidents and fires. If kept under a pillow, it could prevent nightmares.
In Hindu traditions, topaz is associated astrologically with Jupiter. Rings set in astrological sequence as represented by different stones are called the “nine-gem” jewel, Naoratna or Navaratna. Since ancient times, talismans set in the prescribed manner with flawless gemstones were considered very powerful. The gems in this setting are:
Please note, jacinth now means an orange-red to red-brown zircon. However, ancient descriptions of jacinth’s color range from blue to golden.
The placement of the ascent and descent of the Moon into this setting brings “movement” to this arrangement. Hence, this brings power to the talisman. A very interesting way of looking at jewelry settings, indeed!
As mentioned earlier, the term topaz traditionally covered many types of yellow, orange, and brown gems. Some ancient references to topaz also indicate a greenish stone. Although topazes can be green, these sources most likely refer to peridot. Until the 19th century, both peridots and yellow-green chrysoberyls were known as chrysolites. To add a little more confusion, chrysolite also means “golden stone.”
Thus, the chrysolite of the breastplate of Aaron likely refers to peridot.
Confusion over ancient names of stones and their properties has generated much debate over the identity of these gems. As soon as you list a set of names, you’ve opened a can of worms. Just what stones were actually MEANT by each name?
This mystery will likely never be solved completely. If you wish to duplicate the breastplate setting, you’re better off trying to match the color descriptions of the gems with stones commonly available at that time. Most likely, this is what the ancients did. Ironically, this probably contributed to the confusion over what the ancients meant and what was the “right” setting.
From IGS – International Gem Society / Fara Braid
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