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The 48.86 ct. Whitney Flame Topaz Represents the Top 1% of Gem-Quality Topaz Mined From Beneath the Earth

A fiery new addition to the esteemed gemstone collection of the Smithsonian has just been publicized. Dubbed the "Whitney Flame" Topaz, this rare 48.86 ct. elongated pear-cut specimen was acquired by Coralyn Wright Whitney for the institute.

Imperial Topaz is one of the most vibrant and precious colored gemstones in the world. Naturally colored bright orangey red specimens constitute the top qualities of topaz on today's market. Pure red hues, as exhibited by this stone, are exponentially more elusive to come by.

Colored by trace amounts of Chromium, the beautiful red color of the Whitney Flame will now be on display for the whole world to see and enjoy. It's said that the original crystal came from the famous mining area of Ouro Preto in Brazil- a source locality known for its fine topaz production.

Whitney purchased the stone at the Arizona's Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, which is undoubtedly one of the most famous gem shows across the U.S. and the world. Her decision to give it to the Smithsonian was also accompanied by a 5 million dollar endowment.

It's known that red topaz is very rare, but exactly how exclusive is this color for the species? Experts have documented that around 1-2% of all topaz mined will be considered as "gem quality material", which means that a stone is transparent and beautiful enough to be used in the jewelry trade. Out of this tiny percentage, a majority will be brownish, orangey or bland in color. Many of these stones would be candidates for irradiation treatment into blue topaz.

Now, take one% of that 1-2%, that's the current ratio of red-colored topaz coming out of the mines today. Not all of these are pure red, some have a slight tinge of orange modifying colors. Pure red stones sit at the pinnacle of demand among topaz connoisseurs.

The Whitney Flame was displayed alongside many other famous stones, like the Hope Diamond. The Smithsonian showcases about 10,000 gemstone specimens and even more raw mineral samples in its galleries and exhibits.

Photography Credits: Donny Bajohr, Smithsonian Magazine, and NBC Washington
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