White Topaz vs Diamond for Your Engagement Ring
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.
Hey Calla, the saying should be “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend…forever”! Great article, well written, and very informative. Thank you!
Great minds think alike. “Diamonds are Forever” is a registered trademark. I like yours too! Thank you for your kind words Linda.
I didn’t realize that white topaz was used for wedding rings until reading this article. My wedding ring is 48 years old, and the diamonds still sparkle! It was nice to hear how meaningful your ring is to you, because I feel the same about mine. Thanks for another wonderfully informative article, Calla!
The new generation is really good about questioning conventions. I’d been asked many times by clients in their 20’s why diamond is the go-to wedding ring gemstone and why not white topaz or white sapphire. I first did the white sapphire post (https://www.callagold.com/diamonds/white-sapphires-vs-diamonds-engagement-rings/) and decided that white topaz needed its own article.
I’m glad you enjoyed it Linda.
I loved hearing how your diamonds are still sparkling after 48 years, that is the magic of diamonds. You are for sure a good wife and I bet your husband is a wonderful guy.
Your Personal Jeweler,
Before reading your blog, I didn’t realize that people considered so many different alternatives for their wedding rings. After reading this and having followed your Calla Gold blog for a while, I feel pretty well-educated on why diamonds are the go-to for wedding rings.
Thank you for always sharing your knowledge with us.
I’m delighted that reading the blog posts is helping you find out what the choices are and to pick your personal choice. It’s great to get your feedback!
Thank you for the great post which cleared up my curiosity about the difference between the white topaz and diamond gemstones. I did not realize that so many people consider other choices besides the diamond for wedding rings. Clearly, the diamond is the winner !
Yay, another person chooses diamond! I too never knew that people were considering alternate gems until the questions started coming in. That’s what prompted me to write this blog post.
I noticed that most informed people would choose diamond.
Personally, as a young and broke engaged person who constantly loses jewelry, I would still choose topaz. I understand the whole sparkle thing but I just can’t justify the price of those artificially inflated stones (especially if I lose it!). Besides, there is the ethical issue, which I’m surprised wasn’t covered. Why would I want a blood diamond mined by some poor, starving child slave be used as a symbol of my love? Sounds very selfish and ugly to me. Someone possibly died for that stone you wanted just because it sparkled longer. For now, I plan on getting white… Read more »
I do understand the losing jewelry reason to choose a less expensive gem. And I get that topaz is less expensive, but don’t assume that to buy a diamond is to get a blood diamond.
The percentage of actual blood diamonds is extremely low. If you put gas in your car the blood gas that no one talks about is a much higher percentage of abuse. But I won’t get up on my soapbox.
You can easily get ethical diamonds. These are my specialty.
I choose diamonds even if they are little!
Thank you. Was hoping I’d read a comment with this kind of ‘sparkle’. I feel the same way.
As a chemist, I must point out that diamonds are not forever and not all dullness is just build up from wearing it all the time. Diamond on the atomic level is just carbon in elemental form, but I think it’s fair to say everyone knows that. What people don’t realize is that over time it will turn into its most stable elemental form. There is no way to avoid it, no way to prevent it. Your diamond will without a shadow of a doubt slowly turn into the most stable form of carbon. That form of carbon is graphite.… Read more »
Dear Rebekah, Diamonds start out as graphite and then are transformed in the earth crust to diamond by the extreme heat and pressure which changes the atomic structure. This process takes 3.3 billion years. If it takes 3.3 billion years to turn it back; who cares. I asked my diamond expert Tom Seguin G.G. A.S.A. Master Gemologists Appraiser to take a look: “I looked through 4 books on diamonds that I have and found no reference to diamonds being unstable. One of my references specifically states that under normal conditions diamond does not decay. I don’t suggest baking your engagement… Read more »
Hello Ladies, I love diamond and white topaz and white sapphire also! I am a gem collector but I have used each type in jewelry. They are all gorgeous and can and should be kept clean. Even tip top quality cubic zirconia is beautiful and even though it needs to be kept clean, it is so easy to do. I just keep a small glass of ammonia handy and an old toothbrush. I alternate that Dawn dishwashing liquid. My gems sparkle like mad. All of them are fine for everyday but really none of them should be worn while doing… Read more »
Hello Ginger, Thank you for your cleaning tips. I appreciate your viewpoint on the white sapphire, white topaz and cz. I also appreciate that you’ve read the comments of others on the thread. Like the comment warning that diamonds will turn into graphite!Which happily we needn’t worry about. Your rose cut diamond sounds beautiful. I have the happy task of setting a client’s inherited rose cut diamonds into a new wedding ring for her. I’m so excited, especially because they are nice and white and sparkly. I’ll be designing a nice vintage style setting with hand engraving details. I love… Read more »
It’s technically possible to turn diamond back into graphite but you need to actually go out of your way to try do so and be a scientist with a full on laboratory of very specialized equipment. https://phys.org/news/2017-12-scientists-diamond-graphite.html to read about it. So the “chemist” that posted that although is technically correct. They are most like a first year college student or just a Wikipedia article reader taking the truth and bending it to their own perspective. Do I like white topaz/cz’s of course I do but I am willing to call out poor scientific arguments. I don’t like people abusing… Read more »
Hello Janessa, I’d never read of that scientific experiment. Interestingly in the last year certain sizes and clarities of diamonds mined were all purchased that same year. The demand for diamonds in China has jumped up and there is a finite amount of mined diamonds. I found that interesting after reading about De Beers hoarding diamonds for years. And for the record De Beers is not a monopoly any more and hasn’t been for years. Diamonds are mined in Russia, Canada and Australia to name a few. You can even find diamonds from the United States. A cz or white… Read more »
I’m considering buying a white topaz as a travel ring (I like to leave my wedding rings and anniversary band at home in the safe when traveling internationally), so I really appreciated your article and your thoughts!
That sounds like a great idea to travel with a white topaz! Thanks for writing in.
Your Personal Jeweler,
What about a white Zircon? Their refractive value is 2.15 to 2.18. Are they not a good option, though they rate 7.5 on the Mohs scale? Curious to know why Zircons are not opted for if a diamond is not affordable.
Hello Judi, Thank you for writing. White zircon has a wider range of refractive value,(measurement of refraction of light) . Anywhere from 1.7 to 1.96. Diamond on the other hand has a refractive index of 2.4 just to compare. Another comparative gemstone would be sapphire which has a refractive index of 1.76. When sapphire gets dirty it goes 100% dull. So it is its color not its sparklyness that are the value and the beauty of sapphire. When you choose a gemstone that is clear and it gets 100% dull which happens easily with a daily wear gemstone it ends… Read more »
This is all bull. I have two white topaz rings, one of which is five carats, that sparkle much more brightly than any diamonds I’ve ever owned, and they’re just as scratch-resistant. So are my three blue topaz rings, one of which is ten carats. I wear all my rings regularly and they’re gorgeous. Give me white topaz over some over-priced diamond any day.
Dear Fortune, I’m happy to hear that your white topaz continue to sparkle brightly. As a jeweler who does a tremendous amount of jewelry repair work I see repeatedly scratched and dull looking white and blue topaz. My experience tells me that daily wear of these gemstones leads to a duller look. Since the refractive index of topaz is lower than diamond I’m wondering what diamonds you have seen that sparkle less than your white topaz. Happily what I have observed with white topaz hasn’t occurred with you. I’d say cherish your gems which have bucked the trend and the… Read more »