November’s second birthstone, citrine, is the variety of quartz that ranges from pale yellow to brownish orange in color. It takes its name from the citron fruit because of these lemon-inspired shades. The pale yellow color of citrine closely resembles topaz, which explains why November’s two birthstones have been so easily confused throughout history. Citrine’s yellow hues are caused by traces of iron in quartz crystals. This occurs rarely in nature, so most citrine on the market is made by heat treating other varieties of quartz—usually the more common, less expensive purple amethyst and smoky quartz—to produce golden gemstones. Brazil is the largest supplier of citrine. Other sources include Spain, Bolivia, France, Russia, Madagascar and the U.S. (Colorado, North Carolina, and California). Different geographies yield different shades of citrine. With a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale, citrine is very durable against scratches and everyday wear-and-tear—making it a lovely option for large, wearable jewelry.
Citrine quartz has been adored since ancient times. The name citrine was used to refer to yellow gemstones as early as 1385, when the word was first recorded in English. However, since the gemstone’s color closely resembled topaz, these two November birthstones shared a history of mistaken identities. Quartz and topaz are actually unrelated mineral species. But before these differences were clear, many cultures called citrine (the yellow variety of quartz) by other names like gold topaz, Madeira or Spanish topaz—contributing to the confusion. In ancient times, people believed that citrine gemstones could calm tempers, soothe anger and manifest desires, especially prosperity. To leverage these powers, Egyptians used citrine gemstones as talismans, the ancient Greeks carved iconic images into them, and Roman priests fashioned them into rings. A key discovery gave citrine a boost of popularity in the mid-18th century. Mineralogists realized that amethyst and smoky quartz could be heat treated to produce lemony and golden honey hues of citrine, contributing to an abundance of affordable enhanced gemstones on the market. Once citrine was distinguished from topaz, it quickly became popular in women’s jewelry as well as men’s cufflinks and rings. Today, it remains one of the most affordable and frequently purchased yellow gemstones.
Whether you’re shopping for a birthstone for a November birthday, a 13th wedding anniversary, or just an affordable piece of jewelry to complement any style, citrine makes a perfect gift. Citrine is one of the most affordable and abundant gemstones on the market. Even fine, large gems are modestly priced, which means anyone can find citrine to fit their budget. These gemstones can be evaluated by the same factors as diamonds. Because most citrine gemstones on the market have been heat treated—and because it takes an expert to detect these enhancements—it’s wise to shop with an American Gem Society jeweler who can help you choose the best gemstone. The finest citrine gemstones are saturated with yellow, orange, and reddish hues, while gemstones of lower value appear pale or smoky. Earth-tones of amber brown are also increasingly popular. Because these colors are rare in nature, most citrine is created by heating less expensive varieties of quartz, including amethyst and smoky quartz, to produce vibrant yellow gemstones. Most citrine on the market has been heat treated. Citrine is readily available in sizes up to 20 carats—and, because its price doesn’t rise exponentially with carat weight, big gemstones are relatively inexpensive. At its largest, citrine can weigh hundreds and even thousands of carats, like a Brazilian gemstone at the Smithsonian Institution weighing 2,258 carats. Thanks to the abundance of citrine, and the treatment methods that turn less expensive gemstones into this yellow gemstone, it’s easy to find citrine at a good price.