What Color Topaz is Most Valuable?

Topaz is a popular gemstone that comes in a variety of colors, each with their own unique value. But when it comes to topaz, one color reigns supreme in both rarity and price: imperial topaz.

Imperial topaz is the most valuable and coveted color of topaz on the market today. True imperial topaz displays a rich orange-pink to orange-red color. This distinct reddish hue sets it apart from other shades of topaz. The color is similar to the shades found in pink tourmaline or padparadscha sapphire. But natural imperial topaz is even more rare.

So what gives imperial topaz its prized reddish-orange color? The cause lies in the stone’s unique trace mineral composition. Iron and chromium impurities in the gem’s crystal structure produce the vivid reddish-orange to pinkish-orange hues. The more intense the color, the higher the value of the imperial topaz. Stones with a strong reddish saturation fetch the highest prices.

Natural imperial topaz is only found in a few select locations worldwide. The Ouro Preto mines of Minas Gerais, Brazil produce the vast majority of high-quality specimens. Other sources include certain areas of Africa, like Nigeria and Zimbabwe. But even in these deposits, imperial topaz is extraordinarily scarce. On average, one million carats of common yellow topaz must be mined to yield a single carat of premium imperial topaz. This extreme rarity heightens the value.

Fine imperial topaz over 10 carats can sell for over $10,000 per carat. The record price paid at auction for imperial topaz was set in 2014 when a 23.99 carat stone from Ouro Preto sold for $236,748, over $9,800 per carat. These record-breaking prices eclipse other more common colors of topaz by a wide margin. For comparison, high-quality blue topaz sells for around $300-$500 per carat.

Not all imperial topaz is natural, however. Much of the imperial topaz on the market today has been artificially created in laboratories. These man-made stones are produced using irradiation, high-heat treatment, or thin-film deposition to alter the color of less valuable yellowish topaz. If you see a large imperial topaz for a relatively low price, chances are it has been color enhanced. Naturally occurring imperial topaz is considerably more expensive.

When shopping for imperial topaz, it’s important to work with a reputable jeweler who discloses any treatments. A certified natural imperial topaz will come with lab reports from independent grading agencies like GIA or AGL confirming its authentic origin. Although treated imperial topaz is beautiful, only untreated natural stones will retain high value on the gem market.

So for both collectors and jewelry lovers alike, true precious natural imperial topaz stands in a league of its own. There’s no topping the spectacular color and rarity of this most regal “king” of the topaz family.