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.
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.
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.
Even though I’m a big fan of Dodie Smith, I would have to put this in the “pets only” category. Topaz sounds mature and aggressive (almost masculine) to me and not a name I would recommend for child.
However, I highly recommend “I Capture the Castle”, it’s a fabulous book!
My very first car was a hand-me-down Mercury Topaz, a knockoff of the Ford Tempo, and we always called it “the Topaz”. My first association with hearing Topaz is always that clunker of a car so there is absolutely no way I could consider using this as a name!
Being from Utah, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear Topaz in the internment camp. Sort of ruins any chance of me liking the name.
It seems like a name I should like, but somehow it just seems over the top and flashy, like a 50’s stripper name. Picture it: the smoke filled room, the burlesque stage, and introducing Kandi Barr, Cupp Cake, and Topaz Treasure!
As choices go I think Topaz is a fabulous one. I love the gem association and colour. I couls see it easily used and egree that it would certainly jazz up any plain names
I think this would make an awfully cool name. Topy or Paz could be possible nicknames. Though, I think its best suited in the middle name position. It could jazz a more common first name up like Emma or Emily.
I want to like it, but I just don’t love the sound. That said, I’m game for near anything in the middle, so I agree that it could make a snazzy middle. I could also see people going for Citrine, the other gem sometimes named November’s birthstone.
I am one of the “devoted fans” of I Capture the Castle, but while I love Topaz as a character in the novel, I couldn’t do it in real life. I think this may in part be due to the Topaz Marchmain herself–she’s so marvelously eccentric that the name has a larger-than-life feel to it.
Christina Fonseca says
Topaz is my birthstone. I much prefer it as jewelry than as a name.
My favorite piece of jewelry is this gorgeous topaz cocktail ring I have. I love the ring, I love the stone, I love the color. It’s beautiful. However, as a name – I don’t so much love it. I can easily picture it as a name; it’s not as bad as Diamond or Aquamarine, for example, and I do like it better than Opal, but I find it a bit flaky sounding. It seems to be a stereotypical ditzy-girl type of name.