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The "Imperial" Gem

I see a lot of different stones being classified as imperial. What exactly does that mean? How does that classification affect the price of a stone.? What factors determine this classification and what to look for?

I only know of 2 gems which commonly have ‘Imperial’ grades. Jade with a particular green colour caused by the inclusion of chromium and Topaz which is has red or pink tones, though orange/golden colours often get the same label by dealers, but the price should be lower

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I have heard Alexandrite being called Imperial. I think this is just sellers trying to romanticize the stone. Topaz and Jade are the only other stones being called Imperial, unless they are talking about Crown Jewels and they are still wrong.

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What specifically about the gem gives topaz its imperial designation and why does it demand a higher price tag?

Imperial refers to a historical association with royalty. Rare pink topaz (highest value topaz) mined in Russia exclusively was mined for and owned by the Czars (when they were still a thing)–now, it’s the orange/reddish-orange variety that’s commonly called “imperial” probably to romanticize it for buyers because it’s more common, but originally it was pink they referred to. And “imperial” jade has been associated with Chinese dynasties for thousands of years. Thus the moniker.

Jade typically isn’t very expensive unless there’s historical context to the piece (or it’s very, very large), but, for topaz, price tag is all about color and cut. Nothing to do with them being imperial at all, but to do with rarity and color treatment. A large amount of topaz on the market is irradiated/treated to give color (such as cheap colorless to brown) or to enhance color from something common and cheap (brown to blue/orange/orange-red and orange/red to pink). So having an untreated, natural topaz in darker tones of orange, orange-red or pink is rare, and therefore those stones are typically more valuable.

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I just saw an GIL certified imperial Zircon advertized. Could the word imperial be just about the color?

Ah. I see now. So imperial Topaz has mainly a natural pink(ish) color that gives it its name. My only other question then being; Does imperial jade have to have a historic reference to be valuable or can it be labeled according to its appearance? That being Clean, translucent, vivid emerald green and lustrous. I’m assuming White jade is never referred to as imperial unless it has direct ties to a particular dynasty?

I would disagree with your assumption that jade is not expensive unless there is an historical context. Quality Jade is probably one of the most expensive gemstones out there. Poor quality is not expensive but most of that is either resined or dyed. I am fortunate enough to have a quantity of both Jadeite, nephrite and pink Topax all untreated in any way.

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Yeah, “imperial” Zircon is used to describe Zircon with an orange to orange-red color similar to Topaz. Blue Zircon is currently more popular, however, and therefore tends to sell for more on the current market. There’s a brief summary of it in the IGS Zircon buying guide -->

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