The Jewelry Insider

October 21, 2008

Indulge in some guilt-free shopping this month with November’s uber-chic birthstone – citrine.

Legend speaks of the power of citrine bathing its owners in thoughts of calmness and kindness. Certainly today, a splash of calmness would go a long way.

The sunny charm of citrine brightens almost any jewelry style making it the perfect gem to brighten the rather dour world of 2008. Citrine, a form of quartz, derives its name from the French word for lemon, ‘citron’. Many people have come to know this stone though under the name gold topaz, or Madeira or Spanish topaz, although in actual fact it has very little in common with topaz – except for a few nuances of color. Citrine is a member of the large quartz family. Like all crystal quartzes citrine has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale and is thus, to a large extent, insensitive to scratches. It won’t immediately take offence at being knocked about either, since its cleavage properties are non-existent. Even if their refractive index is relatively low, the yellow stones have just that mellow, warm tone that seems to have captured the last glow of autumn.

There are not many yellow gemstones in the world of jewels. A diamond or a sapphire may be yellow – but are usually up there on the price scale. Tourmalines or chrysoberyl, can be found in yellow hues but these tend to be greenish-yellow. However a citrine fulfils everyone’s color wishes, from lemon yellow to reddish brown.

Rare though it is, yellow does in fact occur in quartz in nature, if seldom, when there are traces of iron in the silicon dioxide. Historically, it has been found in Spain, on the Scottish island of Arran, in France, Hungary and in several mines overseas. Perhaps the citrine wouldn’t have been talked about at all if, in the middle of the 18th century, it had not been for the discovery that amethysts and smoky quartzes can also be rendered yellow by so-called burning. This heat treatment at temperatures of between 470 and 560 degrees has to be carried out very carefully and requires a great deal of experience. However, in the course of 200 years, its application has become so much a matter of course that most of the stones available in the trade today are in fact burnt amethysts or smoky quartzes. Only a trained specialist can recognize the signs of heat treatment at all, burnt stones having subtle stripes whilst the yellow of natural ones is cloudy.

In Europe, the boom on these yellow to reddish crystal quartzes didn’t begin until, in the 1930s, expatriate agate cutters from Idar-Oberstein, Germany sent large quantities of citrine back home, along with amethyst and agate, from Brazil and Uruguay. It was only then the spells of citrine began to be felt worldwide.

In the 1930s the world was in turmoil and the color and value of citrine made it one of the most popular gems on the market. Today history seems to be repeating itself. Looking at the trends of fashion – citrine is on its way back as a stylish super-star that won’t break the bank.

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