While both citrine and yellow topaz show a happy golden glow and represent the oft-dull month of November, each could easily be mistaken for the other. Although they look like twins, these two gemstones are from two different families with two different stories.
What is citrine?
Citrine is a popular variety of quartz. Citrine takes its name from the French word “citron” meaning lemon, reflected in the color of this gem. Natural citrine is rare and generally a pale yellow, however, most citrine on the market was amethyst that has undergone heat treatment. Certain smoky quartz can be heated to produce citrine too. Major sources of citrine include Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Russia, Madagascar, Uruguay and more locations in East Africa.
What is yellow topaz?
Yellow topaz is the other one of November’s birthstones. Topaz occurs in a wide range of color beyond sunshine yellow, including pinks and blues. Natural topaz is usually colorless or a very pale yellow, with other colors being rare in nature. This means nearly all the gemmy topaz will have been heat treated to achieve more vibrant colors. In nature, yellow topaz can be found in various locations including Russia, Sri Lanka, Brazil, the United States, Madagascar and Nigeria.
What is the difference between citrine and topaz?
1. Color Range
The color of citrine ranges from a pale yellow to a light orangy brown and is particularly popular in a shade called madeira citrine.
Yellow topaz will vary from a very faint yellow to a yellowy orange.
2. Yellow topaz is slightly harder than citrine
Citrine scores a seven on the Mohs Hardness Scale while yellow topaz has an eight. This means both gemstones are great options for jewelry pieces. Hardness refers to scratch resistance and although topaz has higher scratch resistance, the natural material is also more prone to cleave. Anecdotal evidence from gem-cutters suggests that this cleavage is not such an issue with treated (and therefore more affordable) topaz. All gemstones should be treated with care, particularly if they are in exposed settings and worn regularly.
3. Citrine is more affordable
Quartz is more abundant than topaz, therefore, citrine is easier to acquire. As mentioned above, it is also easier to work with. Topaz is considered rarer and more valuable, particularly in deeper shades of color.
4. Yellow topaz is heavier
Weight is a measure of the density of an object rather than its physical size. Therefore, a five-carat yellow topaz will be smaller than a five-carat citrine. Looking at that another way, citrine is less dense, so a five carat citrine needs will look bigger than a five-carat topaz.
5. Quartz vs. Topaz
Quartz is one of the most abundant minerals found in the world. Citrine’s chemical composition is silicon dioxide (SiO2) , common to other varieties of quartz, while topaz has a chemical formula of Al2SiO4(F,OH)2, consisting of aluminum, silicon, oxygen and in some cases, fluorine and hydroxyl ions. While iron impurities affect the color of citrine, it is fluorine and hydroxyl ions which affect topaz. The nature of these impurities lends themselves to the modifying of body-color through heat-treatment.
Fun Facts about Citrine and Topaz
Citrine is the “merchant’s stone” as it was believed to bring prosperity and wealth to the one who wears it.
The world’s largest and faceted citrine gemstone is called the “Malaga,” weighing at 20,200 carats which is almost nine pounds!
The heaviest topaz is in The Museum of Natural History in New York City weighing at 600 pounds!
Never forget gemstones make an anniversary gift to be cherished. The citrine gemstone celebrates 13 years of marriage while yellow topaz is a gift for a 23-year union.
According to the Bible, Topaz is one of the 12 gemstones that was used to construct the foundations of the city walls of Jerusalem.
Madeira citrine acquires a warm yellow-to-orange hue and is the most sought-after variety of citrine.
Imperial topaz is not yellow, but instead an orange-red color that is considered the most valuable and rare variety of topaz and can challenge the pricing of a good blue sapphire.
What do citrine and topaz symbolize?
Many associate citrine with wealth, protection and good health while topaz signifies self-empowerment, good energy and passion. To us they bring a sweet piece of portable sunshine into our lives.
How much are citrine and yellow topaz worth?
The wonderful thing about both gemstones is that they are both very affordable and you really can get a lot of ‘bling for your buck’. We love to see people just buy the gemstone that they are drawn to and then be creative in what they do with it, and this is by far the cheapest way to get one of these gems for yourself. That said, a glance at the vast selection of jewelry created with citrine and topaz will show you some of the most affordable gem-set jewelry you can buy, because they are often set in cheaper metals, like silver or 10ct gold. You really can afford to create a birthstone jewelry collection for yourself.
Unless otherwise stated by the seller, consider both of these stones to have been heat treated. If the material is untreated, it will be worth considerably more.
How do I care for my citrine and topaz jewelry?
Like most jewelry, a cleaning routine of soap, warm water and a toothbrush are sufficient for general care. As with all your jewelry, take a moment to check that settings and fastenings are still secure and get a jeweler to check if you are concerned. They can also perform a next-level clean if required. Avoid leaving any topaz in bright sunlight, like on a dresser near a window, because some topaz have been known to fade with extended exposure to the sun. All jewelry should be stored carefully to avoid scratching against other stones.
Hall, C. (1994, March). Gemstones. DK Publishing.
Sisk, G. D. (2011, January 1). Jewelry Television Guide to Gems & Jewelry. Jewelry Television.