Individuals born in November can choose between two sunny gemstones to brighten up this chilly month. November’s birthstones, topaz and citrine, are both known for their calming energies, bringing warmth and fortune to those who wear them.
Topaz and citrine look so similar, in fact, that they’ve often been mistaken for one another throughout history. They are actually unrelated minerals, and topaz occurs in a wide spectrum of colors far beyond yellow.
Both of November’s birthstones are fairly abundant and affordably priced, even in large sizes, which means everyone can find a way to fit topaz and citrine into their budget.
Through much of history, all yellow gems were considered topaz and all topaz was thought to be yellow. Topaz is actually available in many colors, and it’s likely not even related to the stones that first donned its name.
The name topaz derives from Topazios, the ancient Greek name for St. John’s Island in the Red Sea. Although the yellow stones famously mined there probably weren’t topaz, it soon became the name for most yellowish stones.
Pure topaz is colorless, but it can become tinted by impurities to take on any color of the rainbow. Precious topaz, ranging in color from brownish orange to yellow, is often mistaken for “smoky quartz” or “citrine quartz,” respectively—although quartz and topaz are unrelated minerals.
The most prized color is Imperial topaz, which features a vibrant orange hue with pink undertones. Blue topaz, although increasingly abundant in the market, very rarely occurs naturally and is often caused by irradiation treatment.
The largest producer of quality topaz is Brazil. Other sources include Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Russia, Australia, Nigeria, Germany, Mexico and the U.S., mainly California, Utah and New Hampshire.
Measuring 8 on the Mohs scale, topaz is a rather hard and durable gem. Its perfect cleavage can make it prone to chipping or cracking, but when cut correctly, topaz makes very wearable jewelry.
Topaz is a soothing stone that has been said to calm tempers, cure madness and eliminate nightmares.
Yellow gems have been called variations of the name topaz for thousands of years – long before mineralogists determined that topaz occurs in a range of colors, and that many yellowish stones actually belong to other mineral species.
Ancient texts from the Greek scholar Pliny to the King James Bible referenced topaz, but because of this longstanding confusion, they likely referred to other yellow stones instead.
During the Renaissance in Europe, people believed that topaz could break spells and quell anger. Hindus deemed topaz sacred, believing that a pendant could bring wisdom and longevity to one’s life. African shamans also treated the stone as sacred, using it in their healing rituals.
Russia’s Ural Mountains became a leading source of topaz in the 19th century. The prized pinkish orange gemstone mined there was named Imperial topaz to honor the Russian czar, and only royals were allowed to own it.
Since the discovery of large topaz deposits in Brazil in the mid-19th century, topaz has become much more affordable and widely available.
Processes were developed in the 1960s to turn common colorless topaz blue with irradiation treatment. This variety has since flooded the market, making it one of the least expensive gems available.
Light blue varieties of topaz can be found in Texas, though not commercially mined there. Blue topaz became an official gemstone of Texas in 1969—the same year Utah adopted topaz as its state gemstone.
Topaz is a traditional gift for those with November birthdays. It’s also given to celebrate 19th wedding anniversaries, and certain types (blue and Imperial, respectively) acknowledge 4th and 23rd wedding anniversaries, as well.
Since topaz was recognized as more than just a yellow gem, it has become fairly common and therefore rather inexpensive. It can be judged along the same parameters as diamonds. In fact, colorless topaz is increasingly popular as an inexpensive diamond alternative.
When buying topaz, realize that this gem is most often treated with irradiation to produce desirable colors—particularly blue. Because these processes so closely resemble how topaz forms in nature, there is practically no way to determine whether a stone has been treated. Visit an AGS jeweler who can help you select a quality gem.
Imperial topaz is the most highly prized for its intense reddish orange color. Yellow, orange and brown stones are more common and less expensive—although these can be treated with heat to enhance the pink and red hues.
Topaz crystals have yielded some of the largest gemstones ever cut. Mines in Brazil produced both the world’s largest cut blue topaz (the “Brazilian Princess,” weighing 21,327 carats) and the largest cut yellow topaz (the “American Golden Topaz,” weighing 22,892.5 carats).
In smaller sizes, this gem is fairly inexpensive. Not only is it affordable, but also available in such a wide range of colors, that it’s easy for everyone to find topaz that fits their tastes – whether or not they get to claim it as their birthstone.
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 gems.
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 relatively durable against scratches and everyday wear-and-tear—making it a lovely option for large, wearable jewelry.
Citrine is sometimes known as the “healing quartz” for its ability to comfort, soothe and calm. It can release negative feelings, spark imagination and manifest fresh beginnings. It’s even called the “merchant’s stone” for its tendency to attract wealth and prosperity.
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 recorded in English. However, since the gem’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.
Throughout history, people believed that citrine carried the same powers as topaz, including the ability to calm tempers, soothe anger and manifest desires, especially prosperity. To leverage these powers, Egyptians used citrine gems 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 gems 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 shopping 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 everyone can find citrine to fit their budget.
These gems can be evaluated by the same factors as diamonds. Because the majority of citrine gems on the market have been heat treated—and because it takes an expert to detect these enhancements—it’s wise to shop with an AGS jeweler who can help you choose the best gem.
The finest citrine gems are saturated with yellow, orange and reddish hues, while stones 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 yellow gems. 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 gems are relatively inexpensive.
At its largest, citrine can weigh hundreds and even thousands of carats, like a Brazilian stone at the Smithsonian Institution weighing 2,258 carats.
Thanks to the abundance of large citrine, and the treatment methods that turn less expensive stones into this yellow gem, it’s easy to find citrine at a good price.
The American Gem Society (AGS) is a nonprofit trade association of fine jewelry professionals dedicated to setting,
maintaining and promoting the highest standards of ethical conduct and professional behavior through education,
accreditation, recertification of its membership, gemological standards, and gemological research.
The Society is committed to providing educational products to inform and protect the consumer and to contributing to the betterment of the trade by creating industry standards to protect the jewelry-buying public and the fine jewelry industry as a whole.
AGS Laboratories, founded to support the AGS mission, is a nonprofit diamond grading laboratory with a mission of
consumer protection. Adhering to the AGS Diamond Grading Standards, AGS Laboratories is dedicated to offering diamond grading reports that provide consistency and accuracy based on science.