topaz birthstone gemstoneWith fallen leaves swirling on chill winds, November marks our last fond farewell to warmer days. As trees turn color and people get cozy with spiced cider, the gemstones for this month are bound to bring seasonal cheer. Citrine and yellow topaz are November’s birthstones, heralding the harvest with their warm and sunny hues.

Topaz is one of the oldest and most revered ornamental gemstones in the world. The ancient Egyptians believed that the bright and beautiful stones were glowing drops of light cast to earth by the sun god Ra. The Romans attributed the golden gleam of topaz to Jupiter, their god of light and sky. And in the Bible, topaz was one of the twelve named gemstones set into the breastplate of Aaron.

In fact, at one time, all yellow stones were called topaz.

imperial topaz gemstonesTopaz runs the gamut of autumn shades from the pale yellow of a chardonnay to ambered honey or a vibrant pumpkin orange. Topaz will not scratch because it is extremely hard (rating an 8 on the Mohs scale), but it also has what is known as “perfect cleavage.” This means that it can chip easily, which, combined with its expense, may be why many people with November birthdays prefer citrine.

Citrine, November’s other birthstone, is sometimes indistinguishable from topaz to the untrained eye. Citrine has often been sold to fool consumers under the names golden topaz, Madeira topaz, Brazilian topaz, Bahia topaz, and citrine topaz.
topaz gemstone earrings
But as closely as citrine and topaz resemble each other, they are very different gemstones. In fact, citrine’s sister gemstone is actually te amethyst. Both citrine and amethyst are varieties of quartz. Amethyst can be heat treated until the purple color turns amber when it can then be sold as citrine. Of course, the same phenomenon occurs in nature when purple amethyst crystals are exposed to hot centers in the earth and transformed into citrine. So the distinction between the two gemstones is largely a function of color. (When a gemstone combines amethyst and citrine together, it is known as ametrine.)

But while citrine, amethyst, and ametrine are essentially the same stone, the two November birthstones, citrine and topaz, are entirely different minerals.

Of the two, citrine is more common. Ranging in color from a bright lemon yellow to a deep tawny brown, citrine brings out the gleam in any gold setting. Along its color spectrum, citrine even encompasses cinnamon orange and a shade of red that is reminiscent of Madeira wine.

There are not many yellow gemstones in the world, and of those that exist, citrine is the most affordable. It is also extremely durable. Citrine’s hardness measures 7 on the Mohs scale, which makes citrine largely impervious to scratches. But more importantly, its crystalline properties make citrine difficult to chip.

Historically, both yellow topaz and citrine were said to bring light and clarity of mind to those who owned them. Yellow topaz and citrine were both worn to gladden hearts, banish fear, and to help see through deception. Even in the contemporary world, these gemstones are known to evoke images of autumn gourds, roaring fires, sunflowers, and melted butter over cobs of corn. So what better way to commemorate the month of November than with one of these elegant birthstones?


Citrine Crystals
Citrine on Wikipedia
Topaz on Wikipedia
More about the Month of November