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C is for Citrine

Updated: Dec 5, 2021

In our next instalment of A-Z Gemstones Uncovered, we'll be taking a look at Citrine; a beautiful yellow quartz that needs no introduction.

So as always, let's take it back to where it all supposedly started...

We can only go with what records tell us and supposedly there is evidence of yellow gemstones being referred to as Citrine as early as 1385 when the word was first recorded in English. However, its history could go back far beyond this time. It's also possible mistakes were made with the "yellow gemstones". Topaz and Citrine both closely resemble each other in colour and share a long history of mistaken identities, so these "yellow gemstones" may not have been Citrine at all. The two stones are unrelated mineral species but before the differences between the two were made clear, many cultures called Citrine names such as Gold Topaz and Spanish Topaz, which only contributed further to the confusion. In 1556 the name "Citrine" replaced the more standardised name of "Yellow Quartz".

Although records show that Citrine was only mentioned since 1385, there is evidence of its uses especially ornamentally, for thousands of years. In Ancient Greece, it was used as a decorative stone during the Hellenistic Age (Approximately 300-150 BC). In the 17th Century, Scottish men used Citrine on the handles of their daggers and swords. In the Old Testament, both Roman Catholic and Latin versions refer to citrine as "chrysolitus", Greek for "gold stone". The Book of Exodus describes a "priestly breastplate" worn by the High Priest of the Israelites and used occasionally to determine God's will. This breastplate had to follow specific instructions regardings its material and size, one being the requirement to contain twelve specific gemstones, each representing a specific tribe. Due to difficulties in translation, we cannot be absolutely certain of what each stone was but it is thought Citrine was one of them.

It is thought Citrine got its name from "Citron", the French word meaning lemon. This is interesting considering the most sought for Citrines tend to be darker in colour. If Citrine is deemed too yellow, it is referred to simply as "Lemon Quartz".

So let's delve into what Citrine is...

Citrine as established earlier is a variety of Quartz in a cryptocrystalline structure (this means the crystals grow with six sides/in a hexagonal shape). It begins its life at the time of a volcanic eruption in the siliceous volcanic lava that flows through the cavities and veins of the rocks. As the magma cools, silicon dioxide crystallises as it cools just like water turning to ice. The oxidation progress happens during the high temperatures causing the yellow/orange colours to come to life. What gives Citrine its beautiful colour is the small particles of iron inside.

Citrine is closely associated with Amethyst some people call them sister stones. It is the same structure as Amethyst, the only difference is in its oxidation state. In the 18th Century, the discovery of heat treating Amethyst to create Citrine was founded. As Natural Citrine is rare, especially ones found in darker colours, heat-treated Amethyst has become more popular and is commonly sold as Citrine. The amount of oxidation in a crystal is changed with radiation, usually by sunlight and heat, this can be done naturally or done in a lab, therefore Amethyst is inexpensively changed by radiating it with heat.


So the big question we see time and time again... is heat-treated Amethyst, fake Citrine? In our opinion, we think not. Fake suggests it is an imitation, however, Citrine and Amethyst share exactly the same molecular structure, the only difference between the two is the heat involved during the formation process. Heating up Amethysts to Citrine, can not only happen in stimulated scenerios but also happen naturally. You can usually tell the difference between natural Citrine and heat-treated Amethyst in the intensity of colours. As dark-toned natural Citrine is rare, pale yellow tends to still be Citrine, whereas dark brown, red, orange Citrine tends to be heat-treated Amethyst

Where is Citrine found?

The majority of heat-treated Amethyst is found from Brazil, however natural Citrine can be found there as well. Other common deposits of natural Citrine are found in Bolivia, Madagascar, Spain, Ural Mountains of Russia, Mexico, Uruguay and Scotland.

5 fun facts about Citrine:

  • Citrine has been known as the "Money Stone", the "Sucess Stone" and the "Merchants Stone" due to people believing that the stone brought prosperity to individuals

  • In Ancient Times, Citrine was carried as a protection against snake venom and evil thoughts

  • Amethyst and Citrine can occur together naturally in the same crystal in some stone sourced from Bolivia, these unique stones are called Ametrine.

  • The world's largest faceted Citrine weighs 20,200 carats (equivalent to 4KG). The Malaga Citrine was first discovered in the Governador Valadares municipality in Brazil in the 1980s/90s, and cut into its current faceted shape in 2009.

  • Citrine was popularized by Hollywood in the 1920s and 30s by actresses like Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford. After the actresses were seen wearing the pieces, the stone rocketed in popularity. Its resurgence during the Art Deco Era made it one of the most sought after crystals at the time.

If you enjoyed this post, check out the rest in our series: A-Z Gemstone's Uncovered.

We'd love to hear your thoughts, what's your favourite thing about Citrine or which gemstone would you like us to feature next! Comment below, like or share this post.

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