Citrine is the birthstone for the month of November well actually there are two stones, citrine is one or blue topaz or topaz is the other. Blue topaz is the more common of the topaz that is used now. For the citrine I want to show you this 18ct gold ring, and this is what is called cabochon and it does look rather like a delicious fruit gum. And that’s a really cracking citrine. You want to have some depth of colour in a citrine and of course with yellow gold it does look really rather fabulous. Then I also have here some very pretty small dainty earrings with rather smaller citrines just in yellow gold with small diamonds but very wearable and very pretty. We’ve started doing this as a design in lots of different coloured stones.
November has two birthstones: topaz and citrine
It’s extremely difficult to differentiate between cut citrine and yellow topaz with the naked eye, but they differ in hardness. Both have a long and rich history, going back to before Roman times. Both are associated with mystical properties. And both are stunningly beautiful gemstones that have been adored by celebrities and royalty alike.
One other important quality they share is that they are both very affordable gem stones. Although high quality topaz is more expensive than citrine.
Citrine has been loved throughout the ages
But although citrine tends to be less expensive than topaz it’s certainly no less desirable.
This stunning gemstone has enjoyed immense popularity throughout history. The Egyptians were among the first to discover this yellow stone and used the gems as talismans. The ancient Greeks loved its bright colours and they carved images into the stones, and Roman priests turned citrine into rings. And around 300 to 150 BC they were used on the handles of swords and daggers in Scotland.
Jump forward to the 19th and 20th centuries and you’ll find that the British Royalty are among citrine’s biggest fans. Queen Victoria loved this gemstone and made it popular. Cartier created a citrine and diamond tiara for the coronation of King George VI in 1937 with a 62.35 carat emerald-cut citrine centre stone. It’s not just British monarchy who adore citrine either. Royalty around the globe are enamoured by its charms: Queen Sirikit of Thailand owns a diamond and citrine tiara, Queen Sonja of Norway received a modern, metallic, citrine tiara for her 60th birthday and the Luxembourg Royal Family boasts a collection of citrine-adorned jewellery.
The celebs choice of jewellery
Of course it’s not just royalty who are fans of citrine. It was very popular in the early 20th century in the Art Deco era. Hollywood stars embraced it, and movie icons like Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford were frequently seen wearing large, elaborately designed citrine-adorned jewellery.
In the 1940’s Cartier were renowned for making some fabulous pieces with dark and light citrines – chic, iconic and still valued today.
Fast forward to the present and you’ll see modern celebrities like Emma Watson, Naomie Harris, Kate Winslet, and Tara Reid wearing beautiful citrine jewellery at red-carpet events. And Angelina Jolie donated a large citrine necklace to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Gem Collection.
So what exactly is citrine? And where does it come from?
Citrine, made up of silicon and oxygen, is a type of quartz, one of the most abundant minerals to be found on the Earth’s crust. It normally forms in igneous rocks as magma cools – the slower the process the larger the crystals.
Its name comes from the word “citron”, French for yellow, the colour most frequently associated with this gemstone.
Chemically its very similar to amethyst (a violet colour of quartz, and the birthstone for February), with the only difference the rate of oxidization of their iron impurities.
Yellow is better than brown
The yellow colour of citrine is caused by ferric impurities that turn it anything from pale yellow to brown, with the most prized gemstones a warm yellow or fiery orange. It originates from countries like Brazil, Africa and Spain, although today we know it occurs all around the globe. However yellow citrine very rarely occurs naturally, and it is often heat treated.
What does citrine represent?
Citrine is associated with fortune and luck. It’s sometimes called the ‘Success Stone’ or the ‘Merchant’s Stone’ because of its supposed connections to success and prosperity. Citrine is also believed by many to enhance vitality and health – and some use it as a healing crystal. It’s claimed to improve the circulatory system, and cleanse the blood, kidneys and vital organs. In Feng Shui citrine is said to help generosity and wealth. Whether there’s any truth or not in these claims, one thing is beyond dispute – it’s a beautiful and affordable stone.
Hard but brittle
Citrine is a relatively hard with a Mohs rating of 7 – a scale of mineral hardness based on the ability of one mineral to visibly scratch another mineral, with diamond scoring a maximum 10, and talcum powder the minimum 1. Although it is relatively brittle and particularly sensitive to sudden changes in temperature. Similarly, prolonged exposure to light can cause its colour to fade.
Inclusions not included
Citrine is usually found with very few inclusions, and the best quality gemstones should have no inclusions to the naked eye. If it’s natural it will be the same colour all the way through, with only slight colour variations. On the other hand, if it’s been heat treated from amethyst there will often be an opaque white in it, usually at the base.
Is it a cut above the rest?
You’ve probably heard of the 4Cs (colour, cut, clarity and carat weight), used by jewellers to establish the value of a precious or semi-precious stone.
You might be less aware that the Cs have more relevance depending on which stone is being evaluated. For example, with a diamond or sapphire the carat weight is hugely important in determining the cost of the stone. Whereas with citrine, the cut becomes one of the more important indicators of value. And with many of the more intricately carved gems most of the value is created by the quality of the cut.
The colour of money
Colour is an important indicator of value too. The most precious citrine stones are ones with the most saturated yellow, orange, and reddish tones. The less intense the colour, the less valuable the gem.
Size doesn’t matter as much
Unlike the precious stones such as sapphires and diamonds, there isn’t an exponential leap in value as citrine increases in carat size. In other words, the value per carat remains constant. Large citrine stones aren’t rare, so it won’t cost a phenomenal amount if you decide you want to purchase a big gem.
Topaz can look similar to citrine – but it’s a different price
It’s no surprise that topaz is November’s other gemstone, because it’s frequently confused with citrine. But if you’re buying topaz it’s important to make sure it isn’t citrine, because topaz tends to be the more valuable of the two stones.
What a gas!
Like citrine, topaz is created in igneous rock. However, it’s one of the last minerals to be formed as the rock cools and fluorine-bearing vapours become more concentrated. These gasses enrich fluids in the rock and over time – perhaps millions of years – topaz begins to form.
Topaz? Or not topaz?
Although there can’t be certainty, it’s thought that the gemstone which modern mineralogists label ‘topaz’ was unknown by the oldest civilisations.
Today it’s believed that a stone they referred to as “topaloz” was in fact a different mineral – perhaps chrysolite or peridot. But whether it was topaz or an imposter, the ancient Egyptians believed it was created by the sun god Ra because of its golden hues, and as a result it had magical healing properties. The Romans thought the stone could protect them from poison – the legend went that the gem would change colour if it was near poisoned food or drink.
There are references to “topaz” in the Old Testament too, but they too may have been referring to chrysolite, rather than modern day topaz.
Topaz hits the big time
The first yellow crystals that can confidently be recognised as modern-day topaz stones were discovered in Germany, in 1737.
Just three years later in 1740, a massive 1,680 carat topaz gem was found in Brazil. But even then it was mistaken for another gem, at the time it was believed to be the largest diamond ever found. And it was impressive enough to be given a prominent place on the Portuguese crown. Even when it was identified as a topaz it kept its place, proudly displayed there to this present day.
The heavyweight of gemstones
Many topaz stones are too large to be worn as jewellery, but instead you’ll find them exhibited in various museums around the world. In London’s National Museum of History of London, you can see the Ostra Topaz, a of 9,381 carat blue topaz, and in the Spanish, Programa Royal Collection there are many enormous gemstones, like the 8,225 carat Marbella Topaz. The “El–Dorado” rough topaz discovered in Minas Gerais, Brazil in 1984, and was 36 kilo / 79 pounds when it was weighed. After cutting 6.2 kilos or nearly 14 pounds was left., making it the largest faceted topaz and gemstone in the world.
Topaz is well known for its abundant use in Georgian jeweller around the early 1800s. It was extremely popular for its use in the delicate, feminine gold jewellery in fashion at the time.
The colours of topaz
In nature, topaz is often colourless which causes it to be confused with diamonds. It can come in other colours though, most often a golden brown to yellow that tends to be stable, and is generally unaffected by chemicals. A variety of impurities and treatments may also make topaz wine red, pale grey, reddish-orange, pale green, or pink (rare), and opaque to translucent or transparent. The pink and red varieties come from chromium replacing aluminium in its crystalline structure.
Everyone loves the blues
Nowadays it is perhaps most famous for its blue colour. And because blue topaz comes in large crystals, is extremely popular in cocktail rings and other large items of jewellery. Unlike many other gems, the colour in natural topaz isn’t caused by elements like iron or chromium but rather by defects in its crystal structure. But blue topaz is extremely rare in nature, nearly all blue topaz is created by first irradiation and then heat treatment, with the two favourite variations a lightly coloured ‘Swiss Blue’ and a much darker ‘London Blue’. As a rule of thumb, the darker the blue the higher the price. Pink topaz is also a colour change achieved by heating yellow topaz.
Topaz is found all over the world
What’s beyond dispute is that tourmaline displays the widest spectrum of colour of any gemstone, because of the presence of elements such as The finest British examples are in the Cairngorm Mountains in the Central Highlands. Germany boasts pale yellow topaz rock of the Schneckenstein. It’s also in several localities in the Urals and in Siberia. Brazil, renowned for fine topaz stones, is where most of modern-day mining occurs and it’s been discovered near Pikes Peak, Colorado, and in San Diego county, California.
Imperial topaz – rarest and most precious of all
The rarest topaz is a variety called Imperial topaz, occasionally referred to as Precious topaz.
Never treated and considered to be the colour of the setting sun, it’s the most sought-after, natural topaz. The name comes from the Russian tsars of the 17th century, because the tsars claimed exclusive rights to the pink topaz gemstones that were mined in Russia.
It’s all in the colour
However there is no official standard for Imperial topaz and the term is primarily chosen because of its colours which give this gemstone its value, reaching prices in excess of $1,000 a carat for large stones of over 10 carats or more, in contrast to some blue topaz at the bottom of the market which can cost just a couple of dollars per carat.
From Russia with love
Today the primary source of Imperial topaz is no longer Russia but the mines of Minas Gerais in Brazil.
Imperial topaz was traditionally considered to be orange with something called red dichroism (which means that when you tilt it the topaz appears red or orange) but nowadays is more widely defined as yellow, pink, red, lavender-pink or peach-pink.
Careful how you pick it up
Traditionally open pit mines are also used to extract topaz, but because it is very easy to crack, water cannons are used to clear out debris during the process. Topaz is then carefully extracted by hand-picked from the shattered rocks.
It’s hard, but it cracks very easily
Topaz crystals have something called “perfect cleavage”. That means it tends to break in a certain way, along a specific plain, and is why it is often found in sections rather than whole crystals. It’s also quite fragile, even though it is one of the hardest gems with a register of 8 on the Mohs scale. Because of this fragility jewellery designers avoid placing topaz in rings unless it’s in a protective mounting with lots of metal. Instead they prefer to place pieces that are less likely to avoid impact. Such as pedants and pins.
Citrine? Topaz? Or why not both?
If you now know a little more about citrine and topaz is it easier to decide which one is right for you or to give as a gift? They are both beautiful stones, but they are also both very affordable. So if you’re in a dilemma, why not consider a piece that is made from both gemstones? They work beautifully together in a pedant or a combination necklace.
Turn to a traditional jeweller
Whether you’re interested in citrine, topaz, or any kind of gem or attractive stone, it’s always safer to seek the advice of a traditional jeweller like John Lloyd Morgan for guidance.
October’s gemstones are pink tourmaline and opal
October is one of the months that has not one, but two stones allocated to it. (June and December have three.)
So whether you’re thinking of choosing a gemstone for yourself or as a gift for someone else, that may leave you with a dilemma.
Which gemstone should you pick?
Why two gemstones for one month?
But before you decide whether to pick pink tourmaline or opal, you may be curious to know why some months have more than one gemstone. And to answer that question we need to know when the idea of allocating each month a stone began.
Where did the idea of gemstones originate?
The history of birthstones has its roots way back in the Bible. The King James Version references gemstones an extraordinarily 1,704 times!
But you’ll find a more detailed description of their possible origins in the Book of Exodus, that was written from stories passed on by word of mouth, sometime between 600 and 400BC.
However it wasn’t until the 1st century that Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus (c.37-100 AD) carried out research that linked the twelve stones to Aaron’s breastplate – a sacred object worn by the High Priest of the Israelites to communicate with God. Attached by shoulder straps at the corners it contained twelve gemstones.
Twelve is the magic number
Flavius believed there was a connection between the twelve stones in Aaron’s breastplate (signifying the tribes of Israel as described in the book of the zodiac) the twelve months of the year, and the twelve signs of the zodiac. And he compiled the first list of Birthstones based on his findings.
Sadly, even two thousand years ago when Flavius was writing, the names of the gemstones were hard to translate, and the Breastplate hasn’t survived until modern times. So the gemstone’s identity are open to debate.
Translations and interpretations of the passage in Exodus the breastplate have varied widely, with Josephus himself giving two different lists for the twelve stones.
Gemstones become official
Fast forward to 1952 when the Jewellery Industry Council, the oldest international organization in jewellery sector, and established in 1926, decided to clear up the confusion and create a list of accepted birthstones.
So, for example, opal was originally the gem trade’s recognized birthstone for October. But the Council suggested that pink tourmaline should be an alternate stone – changes were accepted and approved by the American Gem Society and the National Retail Jewellers Council.
The question is still: opal or tourmaline?
But knowing why some months have two, or even three gemstones doesn’t make it any easier deciding which one to choose.
If it’s for a gift you could, of course, do a little research. You could be quite blunt and ask “what gemstone do you prefer – opal or tourmaline?”
But if you want your gift to be a surprise, there are subtler questions to ask. Have they a favourite colour? If it’s pink, then pink tourmaline is the logical gemstone to choose.
Opal is better known to most people of course, and opaque with flashes of colour. It’s also more fragile than tourmaline, and particularly suited to wearing as an earing or pendant.
How much do they cost? Or how little?
It’s possible that price might be the deciding factor in picking which October gemstone. However, like other precious stones, there’s an enormous difference in cost depending on the quality of the gem.
700,000, or 1.2 million dollars? That’s rich!
The world’s most expensive opal, is a 998-gram gem called the Fore of Australia. It’s the largest known high-grade opal on earth and valued at around 700,000 US dollars. However it’s not for sale even if you could afford it, as it’s been on permanent public display in the South Australian Museum in Adelaide for over 60 years.
You’ll find the world’s most expensive pink tourmaline in Brazil. This was discovered as recently as 2011 in a mine, called “the Great Divide” it’s for sale at around $1.2 million
The chances are either of these stones are beyond most people’s budgets. So if you need a little more help to choose which one is right for you, or as a present here’s a little more information about each.
“Semi-precious” stones. But priceless.
But first one thing that you might be interested to know is something that they have in common: both are semi-precious rather than precious stones. Although that’s perhaps a rather misleading description, as the difference between “precious” and “semi-precious” has no scientific explanation, and the categorization is mainly due to the perceived value and rarity of a stone (diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires are “precious”)
However when many “semi-precious” stones can be more valuable than a “precious” one, the name is even more arbitrary.
Let’s look at opals in more detail.
Opal isn’t just a gemstone for October – it’s the national gemstone for Australia too. Not surprising because vast deposits of it were discovered there in the 19th century. Before that its main source was in a place called Červenica beyond the Roman frontier in Slovakia.
However, its history goes back a long way. Its name derives from the Latin “opalus” which means “precious stone”. And slightly misleading as these days it is labelled “semi-precious” – even though, as we explained before, that’s no reason to devalue it.
Opals for hope.
Both the Romans and the Orientals believed that the opal was a symbol of hope. While according to Indian folklore, a beautiful woman was turned by the gods into an opal that sparkled with all the colours of the rainbow.
Today the meaning of the opal birthstone has come to mean good fortune and luck.
A long time in the making.
Opal has also been around quite some time geologically speaking too.
Its formed as water runs through the earth and picks up silica from sandstone. Then it runs into natural cracks or voids caused by faults or even decomposing fossils, leaving behind a silica deposit.
It’s thought that this process began about around 30 million years ago, until some of the silica turned into opal. And it takes around 5 to 6 million years for a 1cm opal to mature.
Yes, tonight Josephine.
There have been famous opals in history. They were set in the Crown jewels of France and Napoleon presented Empress Josephine a brilliant red opal called “the Burning of Troy”.
Opals amused Queen Victoria.
After falling out of favour in Europe in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, they were restored to popularity by Queen Victoria who wore opals throughout her reign. The Royal Court of Britain then regarded it as a model for fashion around the world.
You’ll be tickled in pink.
So what should you look for in a pink opal? Natural pink opal is typically found in Peru, not just Australia.
It’s less rare than black or white opal too, and can hence come at very affordable prices. But there’s a host of factors that determine its price.
So, for example, if it has a rare or unique pattern its value can be enhanced. Brightness enhances value too. Its shape should ideally be oval. But crack-lines in the stone lowers price.
Seek expert advice.
But altogether there’s so many different factors that affect the value of an opal, that if you’re considering spending a significant amount of money on one, you should seek the opinion of an expert.
Look for a jeweller with National Association of Jeweller accreditation to help you.
Now let’s take a look at tourmaline.
Tourmaline is typically formed in volcanic igneous rock. When magma cools it sometimes contains aqueous solutions rich in elements like silicon and iron. As this rich mix of elements gets colder and crystallises it forms pegmatite rock, containing several different mineral crystals including tourmaline.
Some of it was formed as far back as the Carboniferous age over 300 million years ago.
When are emeralds and sapphires not emeralds and sapphire?
Tourmaline is a relatively recently newly identified gemstone, not recognized as a distinct mineral until 1793. But it’s confused traders and explorers for centuries.
So, for example, in the 1500s Portuguese explorers obtained green and blue tourmaline from indigenous Brazilian people and from panning streams in search of gold. They thought these stones were emeralds and sapphires and sent them back to Portugal to be cut into gems and used to make jewellery for royalty and wealthy citizens.
Similarly, Dutch traders in the late 1600s or early 1700s thought they had found emeralds off the west coast of Italy.
It’s not just the Portuguese and Dutch who thought that tourmaline was something else either.
The largest ruby in Europe? You could have fooled me.
Caesar’s Ruby’ is a 255.75ct gemstone that has been regarded for as a precious stone for centuries and traded between the French, Russia and Sweden since the late 16th century. Yet it wasn’t until 1922 that it was identified as not being a ruby at all, but a tourmaline.
The news caused disbelief in Sweden where the stone had been a part of the crown jewels between 1689 and 1777. Indeed, one of the major Swedish newspapers questioned whether it was the same stone once thought to have been the largest ruby in Europe.
The confusion about the tourmaline’s identity is even reflected in its name, which comes from toramalli, which means “mixed gems” in Sinhalese (a language of Sri Lanka).
A colourful background.
What’s beyond dispute is that tourmaline displays the widest spectrum of colour of any gemstone, because of the presence of elements such as aluminium iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium, or potassium. So the stone comes in every colour of the rainbow and can even be colourless.
A gem worn by gems.Today it is one of the more popular fashionable gem stones and is a favourite of celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Selena Gomez and Scarlett Johansson.
Like all gems, tourmaline’s value is determined by size, weight, and colour. Small stones under 5 carats are very affordable. If you find pure blue, red, orange, yellow, or purple tourmaline stone it will command a higher price. And tourmaline crystals without cracks or flaws are worth more too.
Tourmaline or opal. Or tourmaline and opal?
We hope that you now know a little more about tourmaline and opal which means you’ll have a better idea which is right for you, or as a gift. They’re both beautiful, extraordinary stones and October gems. So if you’re still struggling on which to buy, how about buying both to be worn on alternate days?
Turn to a traditional jeweller.
Whether you’re interested in tourmaline, opals, or any kind of gem or attractive stone, it’s always safer to seek the advice of a traditional jeweller like John Lloyd Morgan for guidance.