Gemstone of the Month: November
November is associated with both topaz and citrine and both gemstones have equal justification to represent the month. Given that justification, I will feature both gemstones.
Capable of warding off danger and help to prosperity citrine derives its name from the Latin word citrina meaning "yellow" which is also the origin of the word "citron" the French for lemon. It is a variety of quartz whose colour ranges from a pale yellow to brown due to ferric impurities. Some citrine actually began life as purple amethyst, but heat from nearby molten rock changed it to a warm yellow colour. Natural citrines are rare and most commercial citrines are heat-treated amethysts or smoky quartzes. Brazil is the leading producer of citrine and is also home to the best source of ametrine, a fusion of citrine and amethyst together in the same crystal. Natural citrine can also be found in the Ural Mountains of Russia, in Dauphine, France, and in Madagascar. Almost all citrine available today is heat-treated amethyst. Citrine has been referred to as the "merchant's stone" or "money stone", due to a superstition that it brings prosperity.
Some biblical scholars also believe citrine may have been the golden yellow 10th stone on Aaron’s breastplate mentioned in the book of Exodus. Citrine has been used ornamentally for thousands of years. In Ancient Greece, the stone was used as a decorative gem during the Hellenistic Age between 300 and 150 B.C. The Romans called it the stone of Mercury and wore citrine, shaped into cabochons. In the 17th century Scots used citrine on the handles of daggers and swords for decorative purposes and there is even a record of entire sword handles crafted from this gemstone. Queen Victoria was a great lover of citrine, partly due to the stone being found in the Scottish Cairngorms, near Balmoral, the house she loved. She started wearing jewellery with citrine stones and what the Queen wore, so did the public. Citrine, like all forms of quartz, was believed to have magical powers and was worn as protection against evil and snake venom poisoning. More recently, citrine was particularly popular during the Art Deco era between World Wars I and II when movie stars wore oversized and elaborate citrine jewellery. Today, citrine is primarily used for its colour and clarity in designer jewellery pieces and is crafted into a variety of designs.
Citrine is the official birthstone for the month of November as adopted by the American National Association of Jewellers in 1912 and can therefore be claimed by Scorpios and Sagittarians. It is also the Planetary stone for the Sun Sign of Virgo and the accepted gem for the 13th and 17th wedding anniversaries.
Imperial, mistaken for diamond, and with huge carat weights, having a truly mixed history, Topaz gets its name from the Greek word topazion, which may originate from the Sanskrit tapas, meaning “fire.” The name might also come from the name of the Egyptian island of topazos (now St Johns Island) in the Red Sea. The Latin writer Pliny the Elder used the island’s name for a yellowish-green stone found there, and it soon became the name for most yellow stones. Topaz was once predominantly found there but is now also found in Brazil, Nigeria, Australia, Burma, and Mexico.
The Greeks and Romans greatly valued topaz as a gemstone. In medieval times, small wine-yellow Saxonian topaz was mined in Saxony Germany, and several rulers wore these specimens in jewellery. Deep mining was later used at the site from 1737 to 1800. Topaz was always a prized and rare stone from the Middle Ages until discoveries of large deposits in Brazil in the mid 19th century. Nowadays it is much more popular and very much more affordable.
In 1740, the “Braganza” diamond (1,640 carats) was found in Minas Gerais, Brazil and was set in the Portuguese crown; it was thought to be the largest diamond ever found. Given that the largest recorded diamond mined in Brazil was 186 carats, that statement “Braganza” was in fact a diamond was never confirmed, and it is now believed to have been a giant colourless topaz.
Topaz was one of the stones selected by Aaron for his priestly breastplate. It is also named as one of the stones in Revelation and of the apocalypse. In Egyptian practices, it is the symbol of Ra, the Sun god, who was the giver of life. In Europe, topaz became strongly linked with Apollo, who is also a solar being. In Hindu mythology, the word for topaz means heat. Topaz is one of the sacred stones of the Hindu’s Kalpa tree and it is well known and very sacred to them. It is one of the 9 sacred stones upon a talisman of nine gems. Hindus believe that, when worn as a pendant, this gemstone will relieve thirst, sharpen intelligence and lengthen life. In Africa, healing rituals with topaz are practiced to establish communion with the realm of the spirit. The Bushmen who bring it to their shamanic work both for journeying, working with ancestors, and for healing, treat the stone as a highly sacred one.
Topaz in its natural state is a golden brown to yellow, a characteristic which means it is sometimes confused with the less valuable gemstone citrine. A variety of impurities and treatments may make topaz wine red, pale grey, reddish-orange, pale green, or pink (rare), and opaque to translucent/ transparent. Blue topaz is the gemstone of the US state of Texas. Naturally occurring blue topaz is quite rare. Typically, colourless, grey or pale yellow and blue material is heat-treated and irradiated to produce a more desired darker blue. Most if not all blue topaz used in jewellery has been irradiated and heat-treated to artificially create or enhance its blue colour. The increasingly popular ‘Mystic’ topaz is really colourless topaz which has been artificially coated using a vapour deposition process giving a rainbow effect on its surface.
The most valuable colours of topaz are the golden orange-yellow type, called Imperial Topaz, and the dark pinkish-red and orange-red colours. Value increases with a deepness of colour in orange and reddish hues. The most commonly used colours of topaz in jewellery are the blue types. Topaz is a fairly common gemstone. It can be found in huge and flawless crystals, which can be faceted into giant gemstones weighing thousands of carats. Some of the largest gemstone pieces ever cut were of topaz. Blue topaz does occur in nature, but is rare and almost always lightly coloured.
Topaz was once considered one of five elemental substances that would bring protection from the deities. The figure of a falcon engraved upon a topaz would bring the wearer goodwill and the kindness of the powers that be.
Topaz produces some of the largest crystals. They can be up to 3 feet long and weigh up to several hundred pounds. The largest stones have been nearly 20,000 carats. One of the largest topaz stones in the world sits in the Museum of Natural History in New York City. It comes from Brazil and weighs a massive 600lbs! The largest cut topaz, the pale blue “Brazilian Princess” found at Teofilo Otoni North of Rio De Janeiro, weighs 21,327 carats and was fashioned as a square cut. It is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
Topaz fosters self-assurance and self-confidence and helps release physical tension as well as stabilising emotions and harmonising energy levels.
Topaz is associated with the zodiac signs Leo, Virgo, Scorpio, and Sagittarius and also with the 4th and 19th Wedding Anniversaries.
Keep an eye out for Kristaval’s Citrine and Topaz pieces as you scroll through our pages…