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Finding a Gem
Gems vary widely in quality and value; don't buy them on the streets, and be wary about buying them from smaller shops. Do your research. Know that gold topaz, smoky topaz, and some other types of "topaz" are really quartz. It's very difficult to tell the difference between well-crafted synthetic lookalikes and the real deal. Get references for a jeweler before you buy.
Imperial topaz, sometimes called precious topaz, comes in shades of pink and tangerine. In general, the clearer the stone, the better the quality. The topaz can, at first glance, easily be confused with citrine quartz, found elsewhere in Brazil, but is harder, denser, and more brilliant.
Where to Buy
Ouro Preto has a reputation for the best selection and prices in Brazil. Ita Gemas. One of the best shops for gems, especially the rare imperial topaz, is Ita Gemas. Rua Conde de Bobadela 40, Centro, Ouro Preto, 35400-000. 031/3551-4895.
Brasil Gemas. At Brasil Gemas you can visit the stone-cutting and -setting workshop. Praça Tiradentes 74, Ouro Preto, 35400-000. 031/3551-2976.
Artstones. Although not as upscale as the stores in Ouro Preto, Artstones carries imperial topazes, emeralds, quartz, and tourmalines and also has some finished jewelry. Rua Ministro Gabriel Passos 22, Tiradentes, 36325-000. 032/3355-1730.
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