What’s a better gemstone for a wedding or engagement ring in the white topaz vs diamond debate?
As a jeweler with over 30 years experience, and a designer specializing in wedding rings, I think the answer is obvious. Read on to find out why I feel this way, and the science behind it.
Are Both Topaz and Diamonds Natural Gems?
Diamond and topaz are both naturally occurring stones. They’re both organic substances, grown and nurtured over millions of years deep inside Mother Earth. In my eyes, that’s a plus. I like the real thing—especially in a ring symbolizing my connection to the guy I plan to stay with for the rest of my life.
I would choose a topaz over a laboratory created, not real gem like a cubic zirconia any day of the week. Even if the cubic zerconia is “stronger.” Would I choose a topaz over a diamond, though? That’s another story. Keep reading.
What is a White Topaz?
Natural topaz comes in a wide variety of colors. Almost all of the gemstones coming out of mines are colorless, dull, and full of inclusions. The gems are treated by a variety of methods to impart the color and make them clearer. It is a silicate based gemstone.
Blue topaz is the state gemstone of Texas because of previous finds there. It is not currently commercially mined in Texas.
Brazil is the source for the majority of topaz today.
Is White Topaz a Hard Gemstone?
Topaz is an 8 on the standard Mohs hardness scale. Diamond is the hardest substance, topping the scale at 10. On one hand, topaz is a relatively hard stone. On the other, the Mohs scale is relative. What this means is, that in actuality, diamonds are really over 6 times harder than topaz!
In practical terms, this means topaz scratches a heck of lot easier than diamond. Over time, as the facets wear down and the scratches accumulate, the brightness and shininess of the original stone will fade and it will look dull and cloudy even after cleaning.
Unlike topaz, diamonds rarely ever scratch and they never fade or become dull. Like the advertisements say: diamonds are forever. Topaz? Not nearly so long.
Which stone will hold up the best over time? The clear winner is diamond. It’s not even close.
What about the Sparkle and Shine of Topaz vs Diamond?
Wedding and engagement rings are worn every day. Hopefully, they’ll be worn for the rest of your life! For this reason, you want a gemstone that will stand up to the rigors of everyday life. You want a stone that will continue to sparkle and shine forever. Diamonds fit this bill. Topaz does not.
White topaz may look brilliant and dazzling under the perfect, bright lights at the jewelry store, but just know, this shine and sparkle will not last. As I mentioned, the scratches will accumulate and the stone will begin to look faded and cloudy.
But my diamond doesn’t look like it did when I first bought it! It’s not as sparkly! The reason diamonds appear less sparkly is due to the buildup of dirt, oils, and grime on the surface of the stone—not because of an accumulation of scratches. Remember: diamonds don’t scratch. Topaz does. When I clean my diamonds they look brand new in a bright and happy sparkly way.
A simple cleaning with warm soapy water and a toothbrush is usually enough to restore your diamond’s luster. In contrast, a topaz would have to be professionally re-polished when it becomes scratched.
The Refractive Index and How it Explains Topaz’ Lessor Luster
Reflection is light bouncing off the surface of a gemstone. Refraction is what happens to the light entering a gem, changing speed and direction, and shooting back out one way or another. The refractive index measures the amount of change of the direction. Or as jewelers say “light return.”
Basically, the stronger the refraction, the more brilliant the gemstone. Diamond has a refractive number of 2.42. Topaz is 1.64. Diamond is more brilliant than topaz!
Why Did I Get All Technical There?
Refraction and the amount a gemstone refracts light becomes really important when your ring gets dirty. I wear my ring daily and I don’t clean it as much as I should. Because I wear diamonds they still sparkle when dirty. They don’t sparkle as much as when they are perfectly clean, but they still sparkle.
The lower refractive measurement of topaz basically means that when your white topaz gets dirty and all daily wear rings get dirty, it will sparkle significantly less than a diamond with the higher refraction.
I feel like that sparkle from my diamonds is a good representation of the emotion wrapped up in my wedding ring. It’s pretty magical that two people find each other, fall in love, make each other happy and team up and get married. I celebrate the magic of love and marriage in my life with my wedding ring. And I need that sparkle, because it represents the magic to me.
I don’t want to look down at the most important piece of jewelry I’ll ever have and have a drab looking gemstones looking back at me. I’ve seen dirty white topaz’ that look like crappy diamonds. That wouldn’t “represent”, as some hip hop song would say. That’s why I got all technical on you there.
What About the Price Difference Between Diamond and White Topaz?
I won’t argue with you, white topaz is way, way less expensive than diamonds! No two ways about it. A carat diamond could set you back thousands of dollars. A carat topaz? A hundred or two at the most.
“But I can’t afford thousands!” You say!
Many women start out their married lives with smaller diamonds in their rings. After some years have gone by, their fella replaces their smaller diamond with something larger. This is very common. It can be a great celebration of how coming together has improved their lives.
In the meantime that small but mighty diamond sparkles happily for years.
My White Topaz vs Diamond Recommendation
I advise my clients when thinking wedding ring design and gemstones to look past how amazing a design or gem looks when clean and brand new and to look into the future realistically. Ask how your ring will look, how your gems will look at 9pm after doing the dishes, after lotioning your hand when you accidentally left your ring on, after a month of a busy life when you haven’t had time to clean it.
With less refraction, topaz loses its sparkle when dirty. For a daily wear ring this spells trouble.
I recommend diamond over topaz. Diamonds will sparkle and last longer than topaz—especially in wedding and engagement rings designed to be worn everyday.
What About White Sapphires?
I wrote about white sapphire vs diamonds for engagement rings too.