Citrine

The three triangular shaped citrines are called “pyramidal halo cuts.” Each one is unique. The halo is seen half-way up the pavilion. The 52-ct. center stone, on loan from Daniel Shames, Dashasa Jewelers, Seattle, shows a center beaded halo. Only one quarter of the halo beads have been carved. The remaining beads are reflections. At top is a fine natural-color deep orangey-red Madeira citrine set as a diamond-accented pendant. On the left is a loose golden (brownish-yellow) halo-cut citrine. The faceted and carved clover-shaped oro verde citrine on the right weighs close to 50 cts. It uses negative curves in the outline of the girdle, with positive cuts inside the stone. One third of the gem is carved. The rest is an illusion of perfect reflections.

Now here’s a Rodney Dangerfield of a stone: citrine, the gemstone that’s recognized more as a substitute for topaz than as an important variety of quartz. Citrine is less expensive, lower in hardness, less brilliant, and now—for the ultimate insult—the alternate/replacement/secondary stone after topaz as a birthstone for the month of November. It’s even been given the dubious honor of representing wedding anniversary #13. Needless to say, citrine gets little respect.

History. Citrine has been around since recorded history. But, because of its color, many feel that it’s been misidentified as topaz. Names you will see in the literature that can actually refer to citrine include “Brazilian topaz,” “citrine topaz,” “golden topaz,” “Madeira topaz,” “quartz topaz,” and even simply “topaz.” Until the establishment and enforcement of FTC Guidelines in 1979 for the gem and jewelry industry, at least one important gemstone house in the United States was still representing citrine as “genuine topaz,” claiming that if the gem were truly topaz, they would have written “precious topaz” on the invoice.

Some of citrine’s problems may stem from the fact that material with saturated color is rare. There’s plenty of natural pale citrine, but 99.99% of the material used in jewelry is anything but pale or natural color. Almost all the citrine in jewelry is heat-treated amethyst, which makes it too common to be recognized as a rare or important gem material.

Natural-color citrine is found almost everywhere there is quartz, which means there probably isn’t a country or state that hasn’t recorded finding a piece of it. Most cuttable and wearable citrine comes from Brazil, which has plenty of amethyst to be enhanced into citrine. Other important sources include Bolivia, Madagascar, and Russia, for both natural and heat-treated amethyst-turned-citrine. In the United States, natural color citrines are found in North Carolina, California, and Colorado.

One place where citrine does get respect is among crystal healers. Healers consider citrine to be one of the gems that can help one gain self-esteem, heal feelings of inadequacy, and ward off negative criticism. Citrine also is important for boosting willpower and giving the wearer greater optimism and confidence. In the health department, if you wear citrine, there’s no need for Alka Seltzer: Citrine fights acid indigestion. It’s even supposed to protect against food allergies.

Color. The name citrine is derived from old French “citron,” meaning lemon or citrus. As you might expect, natural-color citrine is yellowish and ranges from pale yellow to gold to an amber brownish-yellow. Heat-treated amethyst-turned-citrine typically ranges from very saturated yellow to orangey-yellow. It’s reported that some saturated natural-color citrine occurs in areas where amethyst has been naturally heated by underground geothermal vents.

Irradiation also is used to color citrine. Irradiation creates a yellow citrine with a green cast, called “oro verde“—gold-green citrine. These stones can range in hue from yellowish-green to greenish-yellow, with a tertiary highlight of brown. Gem cutters appreciate oro verde since they can get large, clean, inexpensive pieces for experimenting in new designs.

Citrine bicolors are available, most commonly in combination with amethyst—a combination called ametrine. Most ametrine is heated, with the exception of material from Bolivia. Citrine also can combine with rock crystal. This material, which is natural color, comes from the Anahí mine in Bolivia.

There also are reddish orangey citrines. Those that are reportedly natural in color come mainly from Brazil. Natural or heated, they are called “Madeira” for their similarity in color to Portuguese Madeira wine. (Note: For wine aficionados, having a natural-color Madeira citrine would be an interesting twist on nomenclature, since Madeira wine—and hence its color—was created quite by accident … through heat treatment.) Madeira citrines range from yellowish-orange to orangey-red. Today, most Madeiras—which generally are heat treated—will have more of a dark orangey color, possibly with a touch of brown. The more pure the hue toward red, the more rare and valuable the gem.

Quality and price. You can expect citrine to be free from any visible inclusions. In GIA’s grading system, this makes citrine a Type I gem. They are not only eye-clean but also can be found in large sizes. It’s not uncommon to see a 50-ct. faceted citrine.

As inexpensive as citrine can be, there is synthetic citrine in the market. Created using a hydrothermal process, these gems can be difficult if not impossible to separate from natural gems—the same problem we face with amethyst. Therefore, many gemologists would actually prefer to see some natural inclusions in what would otherwise be a flawless gem.

While heat treatment and irradiation can create saturated colors, cutting also is important to revealing and enhancing this saturation. To do this, and to reduce windowing (a see-through effect typical of quartzes), citrines often are concave faceted and carved. These two different styles of cutting can concentrate color more effectively than traditional faceting.

Prices for extra-fine heat-treated amethyst-turned-citrine from 5 cts. to 10 cts. are $20 to $25 per carat. Extra-fine orangey Madeira in the same size range is priced from $25 to $35 per carat. Red Madeiras will be priced much higher—if you can find them. And prices for any gemstone that has been carved or concave faceted will also reflect the craftsmanship of the gem artist. Typically, citrine becomes less expensive per carat in sizes over 25 cts.

Care, cleaning, and bench repair. Citrines are considered tough and very wearable. They can be cleaned in ultrasonic cleaners as well as by steam cleaning. Citrine’s hardness—like that of all quartzes—is 7 on the Mohs scale; that means dust should be rinsed off before wiping with a gem cloth, since dust can scratch and dull the surface polish. Because of its reaction to heat, it is recommended that a citrine be pulled from its mounting before repair work with heat is performed.