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Engagement rings with colorless stones are a classic and timeless choice. Most people default to diamonds as their feature stone, but there are several different alternatives. Of the many types of diamond look-alikes, White Topaz is considered to be one of the best diamond substitutes. Learn why and whether it is a suitable choice for you below.
What is White Topaz?
White topaz ring by Maihao. See it here.
Topaz is a semi-precious gemstone that is used in jewelry due to its affordability and a wide variety of colors. It is affordable because it is more commonly found than rarer gemstones such as rubies, emeralds and diamonds.
Of the many topaz varieties, blue topaz is used most widely, partly because it is fairly easy to find and is relatively inexpensive. Historically, yellow topaz was considered the ‘golden gem’ and ancient cultures believed that the stone got its color from the sun. The word ‘topaz’ originates from the Sanskrit word ‘tapas’ which means fire.
However, the purest form of topaz is colorless or milky white. Pure topaz can refract light well and can look fairly similar to a diamond to the untrained eye.
How do Topaz and Diamonds Form?
White topaz solitaire ring by W2N jewelry. See it here.
Diamond solitaire ring by James Allen. See it here.
Topaz is composed of aluminum and fluorine and is formed from the release of vapors given off during the crystallization of surrounding rocks. Impurities are what give colored topaz gems their hue.
A diamond is made completely of carbon atoms that have been exposed to high pressure and heat for millions of years. The alignment of atoms results in a very rigid structure that also makes it hard for impurities to contaminate the crystal.
The different ways that white topaz and diamonds form are what causes the visible and structural differences that matter in jewelry.
Difference in Color
Color is one of the few similarities that white topaz and diamonds share. In its purest form, topaz is as clear as diamonds. It is also naturally occurring, as opposed to cubic zirconia which is produced synthetically. This is one of the reasons why it is thought of as a suitable diamond substitute. However, diamonds tend to have a clarity that topaz lacks.
Difference in Brilliance
Three stone white topaz ring by Jorgensen Studio. See it here.
Jewelry lovers will often use the words ‘brilliance’ and ‘sparkle’ to describe how they want their stone to shine. In technical jewelry terms, both of these words relate to the way a stone reflects light. Brilliance refers to how much lights is emanated from the stone’s surface, or the amount of light that we can see when looking at a gemstone.
Brilliance is measured as the ‘refractive index’ and is expressed as a value ranging from one to three. A diamond has a very high refractive index of 2.4 whereas topaz has a far lower refractive index of 1.64. In layperson terms, diamonds will look brighter than topaz stones, so if this is of utmost importance to you, diamonds may be the way to go.
Difference in Size
Oval white topaz ring by W2N Jewelry. See it here.
Gemstone sizes are naturally variable, irrespective of the stone. The biggest difference relating to size is how white topaz and diamonds are priced according to size. Large diamonds are rare, which is why they are more expensive.
Topaz pricing is the complete opposite, in that the price lowers as the stone increases in size. This is because the larger the white topaz, the more chance there is of imperfections being present. Also, as the brilliance of white topaz declines with time, wear and tear, the more evident the lack of brilliance will be more apparent on a larger white topaz stone compared to a smaller one.
Difference in Clarity
In jewelry, ‘clarity’ refers to the absence of marks on the inside and outside of the stone. Marks on the outside are called surface blemishes and marks on the inside are called inclusions. Both diamonds and white topaz stones can come with naturally occurring flaws which influence both the brilliance and the price of each stone.
Pear Cut White Topaz Engagement Ring by Dori Ring. Check Price Here.
A gemstone with fewer flaws is more valuable than one with more, but for the average person, blemishes will matter more than inclusions because they can almost be seen with the naked eye. Sometimes even blemishes are difficult to see, therefore, when it comes to clarity, look carefully at the stone and check for visible flaws. This is especially important in the case of diamonds, as clarity can increase the price of an already pricey stone.
When it comes to topaz, you should try to purchase a stone with high clarity. This is because white topaz isn’t as brilliant as a diamond, so any flaws will be clearly visible.
Difference in Durability
Engagement rings are for life, this is why durability is an important characteristic to consider. Durability refers to the ability a stone has to resist scratching. When it comes to durability, diamonds are second to none. Diamonds are the hardest natural material known. In gemology, hardness is measured in Mohs from one to ten. Diamonds boast a Mohs hardness of 10, whereas white topaz has a Mohs hardness of 8.
Emerald cut white topaz ring. See it here.
In relatable terms, a stone with a Mohs hardness of 1 can be scratched with your fingernail while a masonry drill can mark a stone with a Mohs hardness of 8.5.
In technical terms, diamonds are superior (than any stone) for scratch resistance, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t wear down over time. Though unlikely, diamonds can chip, so you should still take care not to hit your diamond on tough surfaces.
If your white topaz stone gets scratched, you may be able to have it professionally re-polished to restore shine. Just keep in mind that this will come at an extra cost and can impact the look of your white topaz stone over time.
Difference in Price
Price is a major driving factor for many couples, and the difference here is significant. White topaz is considered much less valuable than diamonds, and this is reflected in the price. Diamond jewelry can be upwards to ten times more expensive than white topaz jewelry.
This is in part because of the characteristics explained above, but also because diamonds are considered more valuable and prestigious in society. Diamonds are also traditionally the gem of choice for engagement rings thanks to the marketing efforts of the DeBeers mining company in the early 20th century. This resulted in the famous campaign slogan, “diamonds are forever” and also set the standard for diamond engagement rings that cost approximately two months’ salary.
If these traditional standards aren’t important to you, then the price difference is in favor of white topaz.
How Your Style Should Influence Your Decision
How you intend to wear your engagement ring is also an important factor. If you plan to wear your ring every day, then durability should have a large influence on your decision. However, if you think you’ll keep your engagement ring for special occasions only, then durability will be less important.
Halo diamond ring by James Allen. See it here.
Your style preference can also influence your choice between diamonds and white topaz. If budget aside, you have your heart set on the shiniest engagement ring, then a diamond may be the right choice. This is because you can choose a setting that allows the most amount of light in and out of the surface of the stone, such as a prong setting that exposes the sides.
A more secure bezel setting that completely encloses the sides of the stone is ideal for protecting a white topaz against wear and tear. However, a bezel setting hides more of the stone which may not be ideal for someone looking for a stunning feature stone. If your style is more subtle, this setting could work for you.
You can also compromise by choosing an engagement ring with a stunning diamond center stone surrounded by white topaz halo accent stones to maximize shine without completely breaking the bank.
There are many factors that differentiate diamonds from white topaz. In the end, like all engagement ring decisions, the choice between diamonds and white topaz is completely up to you.