Topaz & Citrine: Birthstone for the month of November

The yellow variety of topaz, known as ‘Imperial topaz’ is the widely recognized modern birthstone for the month of November and the traditional birthstone for the Zodiac sign of Scorpio, along with citrine as the alternate ‘lucky gem’.

The spirit of topaz is captured by this anonymous old rhyme:
“Who first comes to the world below
With dreary November’s fog and snow
Should prize the topaz’ amber hue
Emblem of friends and lovers true…”

The ‘amber hue’ mentioned by the poet evidently refers to ‘Imperial topaz’.
The golden color of imperial topaz was interpreted by the Egyptians as the ‘glow cast by the sun god ‘Ra’. The topaz gemstone symbolizes friendship and enhanced one’s capacity to give and receive love.

Due to their similar colors, and in spite of their vast differences of properties and prices,  citrine and topaz have had an intertwined history. Whereas citrine has gradually gained in popularity due to the inexpensive option of heat-treating amethyst, topaz has not been able to keep pace with citrine.

Royal Fame of the Golden Stone

The decision of the Luxembourg Royal family to have a tiara made with topaz, citrine and pearls for the Grand Dutchess of Luxembourg contributed  greatly to the fame and popularity of the ‘Chrysolitus)  (golden stone) as it was called in both Roman and Catholic versions of the Old Testament. and encouraged renowned designers to follow the same path.

Cartier designed an innovative citrine and diamond Art Deco tiara worn for the coronation of King George VI in 1937 and created 27 more tiaras with citrine for the same coronation worn by the Court Ladies.Cartier Citrine Tiara

What is the Origin of Topaz?

Originally found on the Island ‘Topazios’ in the Red Sea, topaz is a mineral gem composed of fluorine aluminum silicate and occurs with a wide array of colors, ranging from yellow to yellowish-brown, green, blue, red, pink and white or colorless.

Topaz is one of the “apocalyptic stones” that for the foundations of the twelve Gates of the Holy City of New Jerusalem, stones intended to serve in protection against enemies and as symbols of beauty and splendor.

Topaz was first mined in Germany in the 18th century, and was referred to as ‘Schneckenstein’ meaning snail-stone due to the close resemblance of the topaz-bearing rocks to snail-shells.
Today, topaz deposits can be found in Brazil, the Ural Mountains of Russia, Thailand, India, Japan, Australia, Scotland and Ireland.

The Romans wore topaz as a means of protection against dangers and injuries from burds and scalds. As historians would have us believe, Emperor Hadrian ruled over a peaceful Roman Empire wearing as talisman an antique ring mounted with topaz intaglio engraved with the Empire’s emblem in the Middle Ages.

Citrine: Alternate Birthstone of November

The November birthstone  is called ‘the king of quartz ‘ for absolutely justified reasons: It’s golden sunshine color captures the warm glow of autumn and is a perfect complement to the earthy colors of both fall and winter fashions as well as Van Gogh painting of sunflowers . Besides being the birthstone for November, citrine is also the gemstone for the 13th wedding anniversary.

Citrine is a member of the mineral family of quartz with numerous varieties and a color palette richer than  any other mineral: rose quartz, amethyst, smoky quartz and, aventurine to mention only a few are among the said varieties all of which are used in jewelry and identified individually by virtue of their distinct color.

A crystalline variety of quartz, its name is derived from the French word ‘citron’ meaning lemon. It’s color ranges from yellow to gold, and to orange-brown shades of transparent quartz. The darker orange nuances of citrine referred to as ‘Madeira citrine’ is named after the color of the wine is considered as the most valuable variety. Its resemblance to the popular Portuguese wine which was a popular variety throughout the Victorian era, but often referred to incorrectly as topaz.

Natural citrine is found in the Ural Mountains of  Russia and in Madagascar and Brazil. Joint crystals of citrine and amethyst have also been found in Bolivia and the gems have been given the name of ‘amethrine’.

In the past, citrine was often confused with topaz of a similar color, although the latter is very distinct from citrine with respect to hardness.

Natural citrine being rather rare, heat treatment is a common and permanent phenomenon. The rare natural citrine occurs primarily in the very pale shades of color which becomes more intense after exposure to heat treatment which does not have any effect on the price of citrine.


A Gem Popular Since Antiquity

The birthstone for November and the gift for the 13th anniversary has been known to mankind since antiquity.  Historically, is was associated with Greeks and Romans and was a popular gemstone throughout the Art Deco era. In Greece. the gemstone was used frequently in engraving intaglio rings. The Scottish weapon makers used citrine to adorn dagger handles during the 17th century. The demand for citrine reached its peak in the 1930s as expatriate stone cutters from Uruguay and Brazil sent the gemstone to Idar Oberstein in Germany after which citrine was used in contemporary jewelry items.

Where can Citrine be Found?

Although primarily mined in Brazil, citrine is also found in Madagascar, Uruguay, Spain and Hungary. The gemstone with the bright sunshine color was worn in ancient times as a talisman to protect against all kinds of evil thoughts, as well as against snake venom.

Also known as the ‘healing’ quartz’, citrine is believed to increase vitality and happiness by virtue of its bright and joyful sunshine color.