Weighing 8,225 carats, the "Marbella" is the world's largest faceted blue topaz and the most extraordinary example of December's official birthstone.
The grapefruit-sized specimen was purchased at the Tucson Gem Shows by the Spanish government in 2000 and added to its Programa Royal Collections museum, home to one of the world’s finest selections of precious stones.
The Marbella was originally called "Topaz Azul" (Blue Topaz, in Spanish), but was renamed "Marbella" in 2010 upon the special request of Marbella's Mayoress and local dignitaries, who believed the gem could help raise the international profile of the Costa del Sol town, boost the economy and encourage cultural development.
The gem's intense blue color happens to match the hue of the Mediterranean Sea near Marbella, which is on Spain's southern coast near the Gibraltar Strait.
The gem is famous not only for its size, but for its expertly crafted oval cut, its magnificent color and its perfect transparency. The dimensions of the 3.62-pound gem are 5.11 by 3.93 x 2.75 inches.
The Marbella has impressive company at the Art Natura Malaga, Costa del Sol's leading venue for cultural and leisure pursuits. Among its exhibit-mates are the 25,250-carat "Lua de Marabá" (Moon of Marabá) topaz, the 456-carat "Corazón Verde" (Green Heart ) emerald, the 243-carat "Star" sapphire, the 4,185-carat "Star of Jaipur" ruby and the 8,175-carat "Giant" garnet.
Blue topaz is one of three official birthstones for December. The others are turquoise and tanzanite.
Images: Map via Google Maps; Gem photos uncredited.