November has the pleasure of boasting two birthstone selections, the Topaz and the Citrine. Both are known for their calming energies, bringing warmth and fortune to those who wear them. These two stones have been confused for centuries and only until the development of modern chemical science has the difference become clear. As well as the fact that topaz comes in a variety of colors. Let’s explore these two stones and their unique properties.
The Precious Topaz is a birthstone for November. Blue topaz is the gem of the 4th anniversary and the Imperial Topaz is the gem of the 23rd anniversary.
Through much of history, all yellow gems were considered topaz and all topaz was thought to be yellow. We know now that
the topaz is colorless, but is tinted by impurities. Precious topaz, ranging in color from brownish orange to yellow, is often mistaken for “smoky quarts” or “citrine quartz,” respectively, although quarts and topaz are unrelated minerals.
The name topaz derives from Topazios, the old Greek name for a small island in the Red Sea, now called Zabargad. The island never produced topaz, but it was once a source of peridot, which was confused with topaz before the development of modern mineralogy. Some scholars trace the origin back to Sanskrit, the word topas or tapaz, meaning “fire.”
Topaz can be found in a variety of places all over the world in Brazil, Afghanistan, Australia, Myanmar (Burma), Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, Madagascar, the USA, Nigeria. Enormous topaz crystals have been discovered in Minas Gerais (Brazil) and the Ukraine.
Measuring an 8 on the Mohs hardness scale, the Topaz can be distinguished from other stones by this hardness and its orthorhombic crystal structure. It also exhibits pleochroism, which is the appearance of several colors in a single stone depending on the viewing angle. Topaz also has a perfect cleavage. Gem stone cleavage is the tendency of certain crystals to break along definite place surfaces. Perfect cleavage is the easiest to cut along these weak planes in the crystals.
Topaz is often enhanced to produce the most desirable colors. The most popular color for topaz is blue, but natural topaz is usually pale blue rather than the bright or deep blue. Orange-brown topaz is heat-treated during a process known as “pinking”, which produces a purplish-pink color. This process is widely accepted, since they result in permanent color change, however, they should be declared as treated stones by sellers. Natural pink topaz is pale pink and comes from Pakistan and is also very rare.
The Imperial topaz is also known as “precious topaz”. It is most sought after natural topaz. Considered to be the color of the setting sun, imperial topaz gets its name from the Russian tsars of the 17th century. It is orange with red Dichroism.
The ancient Greeks believe that topaz was a powerful stone that could increase the strength of the wearer and even provide invisibility in desperate times. In traditional Indian believe systems, topaz is said to unlock the throat chakra, which facilitates communication and self-expression. Therefore, topaz is thought to be beneficial to artists, writers, and public speakers.
The ancient Greeks believed that topaz gave them strength. During the Renaissance people thought that the topaz could break magic spells and dispel anger. Many people in India have believed for centuries that topaz worn above the heart assures long life, beauty and intelligence.
- The ancient Egyptians believed the topaz got its golden color from the god Ra
- The royal court in Portugal celebrates the discovery of the Imperial topaz in 1768
- The famous “Blaze Imperial Topaz” is a 97.45 carat gem displayed by the Field Museum of Natural History, one of the largest cut topaz.
- The prized pinkish orange Imperial topaz mined in the Ural Mountains of Russia honored the Russian czar and only royals were allowed to own it.
- Topaz is thought to promote virility in men.
The other birthstone for November is the Citrine. It is also the official gem for the 13th wedding anniversary and the official stone of Virgo. It is a variety of quartz that ranges from pale yellow to brownish orange in color, taking its name from the lemon-inspired shades of the citron fruit. It is often confused with the smoky topaz, which is more rare and more expensive.
Citrine quartz has been adored since ancient times. The name citrine was used to refer to yellow gems as early as 1385, when the word was first record in English. However, since the gem’s color closely resembled topaz, these two November birthstones share a history of mistaken identity.
Though citrine is widely available, the darker shades of yellow citrine are more rare and therefore, more expensive. Available in many places, Brazil is the largest supplier. It can also be found in Spain, Bolivia, France, Russia, Madagascar and the US. It is available in larger sizes and with a Mohs hardness of 7 it is a durable gem to use in larger jewelry.
The citrine belongs to the very large quartz family which, also includes amethyst, brown quartz, hawk’s-eye, milky quartz, rock crystal, rose quartz, rutilated quartz, tourmalinated quartz, and tiger’s eye. Small chemical impurities separate these stones as well as color and country of origin.
Citrine’s yellow hues are caused by traces of iron in the quartz crystals. Since this occurs rarely in nature, 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 these golden gems.
Throughout history, the Citrine, mistaken for topaz, believed to carry many of the same properties including the ability to calm tempers, soothe anger and manifest desires, especially prosperity. Egyptians used citrine gems as talismans, the ancient Greek carved iconic images into them and Roman priests fashioned them into rings.
Citrine’s color is thought to radiate positive energy and is believed to promote prosperity and abundance, especially in situations involving business. It is also thought to generate stability in life and be good for general protection, overcoming physical addictions, phobias and fears.
- Citrine and Amethyst, February’s birthstone, are in the same large quartz family and some lesser quality amethysts are usually heat treated to create beautiful, valuable Citrine.
- Known as “The Merchant’s Stone”, many businesses will keep citrine in their cash registers for good fortune.
- Citrine has been mistaken for imperial topaz, golden beryl and golden sapphire. Testing the chemical makeup is the only way to distinguish between the different gems.
- Citrine is wildly popular in men’s jewelry: cufflinks and rings mainly
- It is the most affordable and frequently purchased yellow gemstone.
- The largest faceted citrine gemstone, Malaga, was added in June of 2010 to the “Special Exhibition Gems” section of Art Natura in Spain. Untreated and weighing in at 20,200 carats!! That’s 8.8 pounds!!
So if you are looking for a November gift, a stone to protect and ensure prosperity, promote virility in your man, or just need a beautiful gem to enhance your jewelry collection, choose either the blue topaz or a smooth yellow citrine. You won’t be sorry for your investment.
Be sure to click on any of the cited links, you will find a world of interesting information about precious and semi-precious gems!
Next month we talk about the December’s birthstones. December has the distinct pleasure of having three gems to choose from; the Tanzanite, Zircon or Turquoise.
The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe