Topaz is interesting for a multitude of reasons. It’s hard, but it cracks very easily. It’s beautiful, but comes in a huge array of colors. It also matches up well with Citrine as November’s other birthstone because it’s commonly used as a substitute for the more-expensive Citrine.
Stranger than all of that is how Topaz is actually formed. While Citrine is a yellow Quartz, Topaz is actually not a version of Quartz. The confusion comes because Topaz typically forms near Quartz and the two are easy to confuse.
The Formation Process
In nature, Topaz is often colorless. It can come in many colors, but the colorless variety often causes it to be confused with diamonds.
For Topaz to form, you need a high level of fluorine, which forms along fractures or in caves. Hot fluids (such as lava) will run through the Fluorine and drag it into cracks between rocks. There, Topaz is formed from the cooled fluorine. As with diamonds (and most gemstones), Topaz requires some pretty harsh environments to form and then is pushed up towards the surface over time.
Open Pit Mines
The traditional layout used in diamonds mines, Open Pit mines are also used for Topaz mining. Due to Topaz being very easy to crack, water cannons are used to clear out debris during the mining process and the Topaz generally has to be hand-picked from the shattered rocks so that each chunk of Topaz can be carefully extracted.
A lot of Topaz is treated directly after the mining process with either intense heat, a metallic oxide coat or exposure to chemicals to enhance its color, discourage flaws or even alter the color to something more aesthetic.