It’s a hummingbird, a Hitchcock film and a gemstone. Could this also make for a dazzling baby name?

Thanks to Alicia for suggesting Topaz as Name of the Day.

Odds are you don’t know anyone called Topaz. As a name, Topaz has never charted in the US Top 1000.

But gemstones like Ruby and Pearl are all the rage. Choices like Opal are starting to be heard, too. Factor in a literary reference, and Topaz isn’t quite as outlandish as she first appears.

The Greeks first used the words topazos and topazion. It might be connected to the Sanskrit tapas – heat – or possibly an ancient name for an island where topaz was plentiful. The word topaz has been in use in England since the thirteenth century, from the Old French topace.

It comes in plenty of colors, including the very rare blue, as well as the more expected yellow, pink-orange, red-orange, red-yellow, gold, golden brown and orange, the birthstone of November. It’s also the state stone of Utah.

You’ll find Topaz Mountain in Utah. Back in the World War II era, the nearby Topaz War Relocation Center housed Japanese-Americans detained for nothing more than their ethnicity. While California camp is far more infamous, Topaz was nearly quadruple its size. Today you’ll find the site on the list of U.S. National Historic Landmarks. It’s an ugly association for a pretty stone.

The gemstone is found across the globe, from Russia to Afghanistan, Sri Lanka to Sweden. Other references run the gamut from controversial to pleasing:

  • The King James Version of the Bible mentions topaz in the Book of Exodus, as a stone in the symbolic breastplate worn by the high priest. Just like rubies and pearls appear in the Good Book, this gives topaz a bit of a symbolic lift;
  • Leon Uris’ novel Topaz inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s 1969 movie of the same name. It was the story of a spy ring, code name Topaz;
  • Real life East German spy Rainer Rupp really did answer to the code name Topaz in the 1970s and 80s;
  • The Ruby Topaz is a type of hummingbird native to northern South America;
  • If you’re motoring around Ireland, you can fill up the tank with petrol at a Topaz station;
  • One of the magical animated characters on Trollz wears the name.

None of these do much for the use of Topaz as an appellation.

Then there’s Dodie Smith’s 1948 novel I Capture the Castle. Smith is far more famous for penning 101 Dalmations, but Castle has devoted fans. It’s the story of Cassandra Mortmain and her family, set in 1930s England. They’re something of an eclectic bunch, living in a dilapidated castle. Topaz is Cassandra’s stepmother. While the tale is about the romantic fortunes of Cassandra and her sister Rose, it is possible to imagine parents honing in on Topaz’ name instead. The novel has been adapted for the stage and screen, and remains beloved.

But the literary Topaz aside, this seems like an awfully flashy choice for a baby name. Perhaps Topaz is best suited to the middle spot – or reserved for fictional characters. With a lack of an easy nickname, your child would need a big personality to pull this one off.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I *love* Topaz, but unfortunately the name cannot be pronounced in a nice way in Dutch. Sounds like the Dutch word for Easter, kind of a harsh sound. In the US/UK it would make a great new Ruby or Pearl though.

  2. I actually DO know a Topaz! I went to school with her, but she was younger than me, so I didn’t know her very well. Her SISTER was named Jasper, and I believe they had another sister, but I don’t know her name. They also had a very cool last name. As I recall, she was really cool. Not ditzy at all, more of a skater type girl. I’m fairly certain she never got made fun of or anything, it never occurred to me or any of my friends that her name was strange in the least. I went to school with a lot of kids with interesting names, and I was always jealous.