Meaning, Symbolism, and History of Topaz and Citrine
May 24, 2023
For daily wit & wisdom, sign up for the Almanac newsletter.
Throughout history, topaz and citrine have often been mistaken for one another. Although they both occur in yellow and look similar, they are in fact unrelated mineral species. Learn more about the history, meaning, and symbolism of topaz and citrine!
Pure topaz is colorless and for many years was confused for diamonds. But topaz also occurs in a range of colors: orange, pink, red, violet, blue, green, and most commonly, yellow and brown. The gem is allochromatic, meaning it receives its color from impurity elements—or defects—in its crystal structure.
The presence of chromium causes pink, red, and violet.
Imperfections at the atomic level are what lead to yellow and brown colors.
Blue topaz is the result of treating colorless topaz through irradiation or heat.
Imperial topaz, a reddish- or pinkish-orange gem, is one of the rarest forms of the gem and therefore, the most expensive.
Mystic topaz is achieved by treating the colorless version of the gem through chemical vapor, creating a metallic rainbow inside the stone that can change colors in the light.
Topaz Meanings, Symbolism, and Folklore
The origin of the gem’s name is believed by some to come from the Sanskrit word, tapas or tapaz, meaning fire; others date its name origin to the Greek word topazios, the name for a small island in the Red Sea.
Given its yellow color, some thought that topaz had the ability to attract gold.
The ancient Greeks believed that topaz gave them strength.
Others beliefs range from attracting love to creating invisibility.
During the Renaissance, it was thought that wearing a topaz amulet on your left arm would protect the wearer from dark magic.
African shamans believed the gem to be sacred, using it during healing rituals.
In India, wearing topaz above the heart was thought to guarantee a long life, beauty, and intelligence.
There was a time when topaz was used to treat arthritis, improve digestion, and help with weight loss.
If kept in the home, some thought, that it could protect against accidents and fires; under a pillow, it could prevent nightmares.
Where Does Topaz Come From?
Topaz is formed during the final stages of igneous rock crystallization. It typically occurs in granite rock and lava flow.
Russia’s Ural Mountains was a leading source of Imperial topaz in the 19th century. For more than two centuries, Minas Gerais, a state in Brazil, has been one of the most important sources for high-quality topaz in a range of colors. Pakistan, specifically Katlang in the northwestern region, produces pink topaz. Other sources include Nigeria, Madagascar, Mexico, and California, Colorado, and Utah in the United States.
Topaz in History
For hundreds of years, the topaz has been confused for other stones like diamonds, peridots, quartz, and citrine (keep reading for more on this other November birthstone).
It was once thought that all yellow and brown gemstones were topaz and that all topaz was yellow or brown.
A transparent topaz weighing close to 600 pounds was found in Minas Gerais, Brazil.
In addition to topaz being a November birthstone, blue topaz is given for a fourth wedding anniversary, while Imperial topaz is gifted for a 23rd anniversary.
Blue topaz is the state gemstone of Texas, adopted in 1969, which is the same year that Utah named the topaz as its state gemstone. Topaz Mountain is located in Fillmore, Utah.
Alfred Hitchcock directed “Topaz,” a spy thriller, in 1969.
Topaz in Jewelry
Despite its 8 Mohs Hardness rating, special care is required to avoid chipping and cracking this gemstone. Use warm, soapy water and avoid high heat or sudden temperature changes as it may cause gems to break internally.
However, topaz is considered durable and therefore suitable for many jewelry options, including necklaces, rings, and earrings.
A variety of quartz, natural citrine is transparent yellow to brownish orange. It is rare to find the stone in nature and many citrine gems found in the jewelry market are the result of heat-treating amethyst and smoky quartz.
Traces of iron in the citrine structure gives the stone a yellow to orange color
Citrine Meanings, Symbolism, and Folklore
Citrine is thought to come from the French word, citron, meaning lemon.
Often mistaken for topaz, citrine was thought to hold the same powers, including the ability to soothe tempers and bring calm to those who possessed it.
It was once believed to bring about prosperity and unimaginable success to those who wore it.
In ancient times, citrine was used to protect against snake venom, evil thoughts, and heartache.
Some believed the gem could carry the power and energy of the Sun.
Citrine has long been thought to have physical healing powers, gained by wearing the gem.
Where Does Citrine Come From?
Found within a large freshwater wetland in Bolivia, the Anahí Mine is an important source of natural citrine. It also produces a crystal that is a combination of citrine and amethyst. When the gem includes both purple (amethyst) and yellow/brownish orange (citrine) colors, it is known as ametrine.
Other sources of citrine include Brazil, Spain, Madagascar, and U.S locations such as Colorado, North Carolina, and California. Amethyst that is heat treated to citrine colors is found in Brazil.
Citrine in History
Before citrine and topaz were determined to be different minerals, citrine was referred to as gold topaz, Spanish topaz, or Madeira topaz.
Egyptians used citrine as talismans, while ancient Greeks would carve images into the stones.
Roman priests used citrine for rings.
During the Victorian era, citrine was a popular choice for Scottish jewelry.
In the 18th century, mineralogists realized that amethyst could be heat treated to produce the yellow hues of citrine.
In modern times, most of the citrine is the result of heat treatment to amethyst, the February birthstone.
In addition to being one of the November birthstones, citrine is also given for the 13th wedding anniversary.
Citrine in Jewelry
With a 7.0 Mohs Hardness rating, citrine is durable and suitable for everyday wear. The gem should be cleaned using warm, soapy water. Any cleaning process that includes high heat can cause citrine to crack.
Citrine’s color has become a jewelry alternative for topaz and yellow sapphire.
It is popular in rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces.