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The Myth and Lore of Topaz: November's Birthstone

Mar 28, 2008
Topaz was one of the original gems on the Breastplate of the Second Temple, inscribed to with the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. While many of the birthstones have been changed over the millenia, topaz is one gem that is almost universally accepted as November's birthstone; it is the gem of the zodiac sign Sagittarius. It is also called Sunday's gemstone - and it associated with the sun.

Indeed, St. John in Revelation writes that topaz was 'touched by the splendor of the sun.' He lists topaz as the ninth foundation stone-each of the stones representing Christian virtue. To St. John, topaz is the clearest of all gemstones and signifies contemplation which expands the heart and aligns men with the nine orders of angels. "The love with which contemplation burns, colors it gold," he writes. He noted the size of the gem - topaz crystals have been found over a foot long, and claimed that the gem was a favorite of kings.

The name, topaz, comes from the island, Topazio, which is in the red seas. It was commonly used as an amulet as protection from the "evil eye." The theme of a cure of eyes runs though some of the early Christian writing from the tenth century. St. Hildegarde claimed the gem was so brilliant that it illuminated prayers in a dark chapel, and claimed the gem was a cure of dim vision. She recommended placing a piece of topaz in white wine for three days and nights, then rubbing the eye with the stone before sleep with the wet stone and using the wine as an eye wash. (Kuntz 308)

Other "healing" applications vary over the centuries. Powdered topaz placed in wine cured asthma, burns, insomnia and hemorrhage. It was said to cure sadness and make you more intelligent and was particularly powerful if used in moonlight. Pope Clement VI and Pope Gregory II claimed that topaz could even cure the sores from the plague. (Kuntz 209-210)

It is almost laughable these days, in our current cultural milieu, to read about these "healers" of old who were able to claim miraculous results by using topaz or for that matter, any gemstone. Yet belief cannot be underestimated; our bodies heal particularly quickly if we have faith in the modality and the healer himself, whether that be the doctor, shaman or Pope. Medicine is full of such accounts of miraculous events that cannot be explained by the current scientific world view.

An Italian American friend of mine told me about her grandmother because the doctors wanted to cut off her leg which had a gangrene infection. The leg couldn't be healed. Everyone wanted the leg off. My friend convinced the family to give her two weeks. She bought bags of organic garlic, made poultices and applied them to the leg. She and a few friends sat and prayed over the leg day and night. The leg was healed.

The soul of the world appears separate from us, but perhaps it is within us. If so, topaz, or any gemstone, has the potential to be "healing." Each gem contains its own energy based upon its particular shape and molecular structure. Our bodies, too, are energetic and we are capable with practice, to respond to other objects in our field as energy. The two questions are: how sensitive are we to listening to the feelings or thoughts that the gemstone brings? Secondly, how capable are we at interpreting what we perceive?

The early writers lived in a world which was based on lore and superstition, but at the same time, it was alive and infused with mystery. Objects had power. Today, such thoughts are driven underground by our Cartesian intellect, which has faith in the scientific point of view; except, we are still mysteriously interested in gemstones.

Topaz is has many colors, and each would have its quality. The shape of the gem, which is orthorhombic, with three accesses radiating toward each other, is said to represent radiant energy and a heavenly connection. (Kuntz 331). The square shape also suggests that topaz has something to do with structure, discipline and building foundations. Think about how you use squares in your life.

Early writers seem to be speaking of clear and gold topaz. Gold is a color associated with the soul, the essential, immortal part of ourselves. Gold is radiant life energy. Gold is the color of the sun. Sagittarius, the zodiac symbol associated with this gem, is a mutable fire sign; always striving, full of passion and intellectual intensity. This intensity, with the help of topaz, might be well structured in any pursuit.

From all these small hints, we can see how topaz can be used as an alliance that can help one align with the one's inner light. For many of us, therefore, dismayed by our personal affairs or the state of the world, topaz is the perfect healing stone.

References: Most of the historical content, myth and lore referenced in this article came from two books, both of which are in print and available on line:

George Frederick Kunz, The Curious Lore of Precious Stones, New York; Dover Publications, Inc. 1913, 1971 edition.

Bruce Knuth, Gems In Myth, Legends And Lore, Parachute, Colorado, Jewelers Press, 2007.
About the Author
Marc Choyt is President of Reflective Images, a designer jewelry company, that sells topazes and ethically sourced jewelry at www.artisanweddingrings.com. His company produces eco-friendly, conflict free diamond jewelry. Marc also authors www.fairjewelry.org supporting green, fair trade, socially responsible jewelry practices.
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