The two November birthstones, topaz and citrine, are often mistaken for each other. In fact, unscrupulous dealers sometimes sold citrines as more valuable topaz. The most precious citrines are a clear yellow, while golden topaz has darker tones of brown or orange. In ancient times, both were found in on the Mediterranean island of Topazios.
Topaz comes in many colors, the most prized of which is an orange favored by Russian czars in the 1800s. This color is still called imperial topaz. While you can also buy pink, purple, yellow or blue topaz, November’s stone is golden like fall leaves. Blue topaz is one of December’s birthstones. Topaz rates an 8 on the Mohs hardness scale. This means it’s harder than most stones, but can still be scratched by diamonds, rubies, and a few other gems.
Topaz is associated with many good traits, such as loyalty, friendship and constancy. That’s probably why topaz shows up several times on the list of anniversary gift gemstones – blue topaz for the fourth anniversary, topaz as an alternate to aquamarine for the 19th, and imperial topaz for the 23rd.
Topaz can break if hit or dropped. Pick protective settings. For daily wear, pins, pendants and earrings are hardier than rings and bracelets. You can clean your topaz with warm, soapy water.
Citrine is a yellow or orange form of quartz crystal most often found in the U.S., Brazil and Russia. In nature, they’re usually pale yellow. The word “citrine” is from the French “citron,” or lemon, because of this naturally occurring color. The deeper orange or redder citrines you see in stores are often smoky quartz or amethyst that have been heat treated. Amethysts and citrines are closely related, the only difference being the oxidation levels of iron in the quartz.
Citrine is generally transparent, without visible inclusions. Jewelers almost always cut facets into citrines. Ovals and round brilliants are the most popular citrine cuts, as they best bring out the golden yellow color. You can also find citrines in emerald cuts and fancy cuts. A 7 on the Mohs scale, citrines are considerably softer than topazes.
In gemstone lore, citrine is believed to promote stability and success. Sometimes it’s called “the success stone” or “the merchant’s stone” and tucked into a cash register to promote wealth. Citrines are used in Chinese feng shui arrangements to attract abundance. Healers use citrines to counteract mood swings, depression, anger, sleep disturbances, phobias, addictions and stomach problems. In addition to being one of the November birthstones, citrine is the 13th wedding anniversary gemstone.
Since diamonds, topaz, rubies and a handful of other gems are harder than citrines, be careful not to store these stones touching each other. Take off your citrine ring before hitting the tennis court or rock wall. You can clean citrines with warm water and mild soap, or wipe them with a brush or soft cloth. Since citrines are heat-sensitive, don’t use steamers or expose them to extreme temperatures. Ultrasonic cleaners should be safe.