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Topaz or Citrine - November Birthstones

Posted by David Nytch on


It was the Egyptians who believed that the golden glow of the sun god gave topaz its golden glow. Topaz was said to dispel enchantments and drive away sadness as well as improve intellect and give courage to its owner. The Greeks thought the wearer of Topaz was invisible in times of emergency. The history of topaz is shrouded in confusion. Ancient societies had not yet discovered scientific methods and would categorize gems according to their appearance. Any yellow gem would commonly be called a topaz.

The name topaz itself has two possible sources; it could be derived from a Sanskrit word that means either yellow or fire, or it could be derived from the ancient Greek island Topazios in the Red Sea. The island Topazios was said to have many bright yellow gemstones, but because the island was covered in fog much of the time they were very difficult to find. It is now thought that the island in question is Zebargad and the gems were peridot.

Topaz’s color commonly ranges from deep warm golden hues to rich shades of oranges, browns, and cinnamon. Topaz can have the pastel color of a peach and in very rare cases can be a wonderful pale pink to sherry colored red. Topaz occurs naturally in wonderful shades of sky blue, vivid aquas to darker hues of blue and greenish blue. Blue was once the rarest of all topaz colors, but today has become the most common thanks to modern color enhancement techniques.

In recent years, as topaz’s popularity grows, new treatment processes have become available creating exciting new colors. These new colors range from dark blues to reds and pinks, greens, and even topaz with rainbow iridescence.

Topaz is usually heat treated and irradiated to improve its color. Blue topaz is clear topaz that has been first treated by heat then irradiated to create various shades of blue. Yellow, brown and orange topaz will often change color to pink when heat treated. These treatments are very stable. The newer treatment process is a bonded surface coating and
special care should be taken with these gems.

Most of today’s topaz mined and cut in Brazil, however, it is also found in Sir Lanka, Afghanistan, Russia and South Africa. Topaz is also found in Mexico and in Utah.

Topaz is a hard gem and will resist scratching and will keep its polish for years. Topaz does however easily cleave (split or crack). Because of this property care should be taken to avoid sharp blows or sudden temperature changes. Topaz should not be cleaned with steam or ultrasonic cleaners. Topaz can be cleaned with commercial jewelry cleaner or a mild soap and water along with an old toothbrush to clean the setting as well. Always rinse and dry your jewelry after cleaning.



Citrine has been gaining popularity in recent years as an alternative to topaz as a November birthstone. Citrine is prized for its beauty and affordability.

Citrine is a variety of the mineral species quartz and is closely related to amethyst. Citrines color ranges from a soft fine yellow to a deep rich golden hue, and remind one of a warm sunny day. Citrine gets it name from the French word for lemon “citron”.

The major source for citrine is Brazil. Other sources include Madagascar, Bolivia, and the US.

Citrine is almost always heat treated to enhance its color. The heat treatment is stable, but the color of any citrine treated or not may fade it exposed to prolonged periods of heat or sunlight. It would be best not to wear your citrine jewelry when sunbathing or in the tanning booth. Citrine is fairly durable, but care should be taken to avoid sharp blows and scratches.

With normal wear and a little bit of care, Citrine will keep its beauty for a lifetime. Citrine can be cleaned with commercial jewelry cleaners and is safe for ultrasonic and steam cleaners as well. A mild soap and warm water bath are also very good along with an old, soft, toothbrush to gently clean the setting as well as the gem. Always
rise and dry your jewelry after cleaning.

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