Yellow Topaz vs. Citrine: Understanding November’s Birthstones

These gems have life in them: their colors speak, say what words fail of.” Mary Ann Evans a.k.a. iconic Victorian novelist George Eliot wrote these words sometime in the mid-1800s. It’s very possible she may have been musing about the gemstones of November as both were very popular in Victorian times.
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Although not celebrated as much as sapphires, rubies, and emeralds, the gems of November can hold their own for not only being beautiful, but for being affordable when it comes to, let us say, the larger cuts.

November has two brilliant gemstones to brighten up the winter months: topaz and citrine. Though the blue and yellow hues these stones are so well-known for are often not their original shade.

Besides November birthday girl George Eliot, lots of lucky gals have these radiant gems to call their own. November birthday girls include red carpet beauties Anne Hathaway, Scarlett Johansson, Chrissy Teigen, Rachel McAdams, Anna Faris, Emma Stone, Miranda Lambert, and Kendall Jenner. November icons Bo Derek, Grace Kelly, Marie Antoinette, Anna Nicole Smith, and Jimi Hendrix have all worn oodles of topaz and citrine jewelry. Fashion icon Anna Wintour just loves huge chunky citrine necklaces and screen goddess Vivien Leigh wore a topaz pendant when she accepted her best actress Oscar for “Gone with the Wind” in 1940.


This is one lustrous gem. Throughout much of history, all yellow gems were considered topaz and all topaz were thought to be yellow. We know better now – topaz comes in many colors and in no color at all. While pure topaz is colorless, impurities can tint it into any color of the rainbow. And it’s noteworthy that pink and purple topazes can steal the show from even the finest of sapphires.

Imperial topaz with its vibrant orange color with pink undertones is the most sought-after color of topazes. Named in the honor a Russian Czar, there was a time when only royals were allowed to don them. Blue topaz is incredibly popular but is usually colorless topazes made blue.

Topaz is quite durable rating 8 on the Mohs scale (diamonds are a 10).

The Egyptians once wore topaz for protection. During the Renaissance, it was thought to hold the power to break magical spells. In India, it was thought all those that wore topaz above their heart would be ensured a long life full of beauty and intelligence. African shamans use the stone in their healing rituals.

Unlike other gemstones, topaz’s natural colors are not caused by chemical composition but rather impurity elements or defects in the crystal structure. Chromium causes pink, red, and purple shades while crystal imperfections are responsible for yellow, brown, and blue. Topaz is also able to show different colors in different crystal directions, which is fabulous.

One breathtaking piece of topaz jewelry is a bib necklace that was dubbed the “most spectacular necklace in the world.” It was worn in the 1940s in several movies and is honestly hard to take your eyes off of. Another showstopper is a colorless 1680 carat topaz that was originally thought to be a diamond and thus set into the Portuguese Crown Jewels.

When it comes to size, topaz has it in spades as some of the largest gemstones ever mined have been none other than topazes. The largest cut natural blue topaz is the 21,327 carat “Brazilian Princess.” The largest natural yellow topaz is the “American Golden Topaz” that weighs in at a heart-stopping 22,892 carats. If you are having trouble imagining how big that is, just imagine wearing a ring with a center stone the size of a cantaloupe. But where could one possibly wear such a thing?

Humor me, if you will, and join me in 1926 where the Maharajah of Patiala is wearing this beautiful ceremonial necklace he commissioned from Cartier with a 234.65 yellow diamond, set with white topazes, diamonds, and rubies. It cannot be understated how much this dude loved his bling. Of all the cats that bejeweled themselves, he holds the prize as the most bedazzling. Even Elizabeth Taylor would have colored herself impressed. In total the necklace had almost 1000 total carats of diamonds, and that isn’t even counting the other gems, like those topazes. He also commissioned another necklace in 1928 with more white topazes.


Citrine has been adored since ancient times. Though it’s not the only yellow stone in town, it is the most frequently sought after. Though, citrine’s most popular shade is an earthy brownish or reddish orange.

In its pale yellow hue, it looks a lot like a yellow topaz, which could explain why they’re so easily confused. The yellow color is caused by traces of iron. Since it’s so rare, most yellow citrine is actually other forms of heat-treated quartz. Natural citrine is a much paler yellow than treated stones. You can tell the treated stones from the natural because they will have a red tint to them, while natural citrine does not.

With a hardness one step (7) down from topaz on the Mohs scale, it’s a fairly durable gem and great for everyday wear.

Citrine is known for its healing properties with the ability to calm nerves. Folklore says it has the ability to help the wearer let go of negative feelings, strengthen muscles, and serve as an excellent muse for ones imagination.

During the Victorian era, citrine was widely worn as center stones in brooches and pendants.

When it comes to size, more than 20 carats is not out of the question and is by all means readily available. Unusual cuts are also something you’ll find with this gem. And sizes up to 20 carats are affordable because its price-per-carat doesn’t increase like some other gems do as carats increase – so it won’t cost an arm and a leg to get a huge stone.

When it comes to citrine and the royals, look no further than the Duchess of Cambridge. One from yesteryear and one  from here and now. The former Duchess of Cambridge, Wallis Simpson, led a truly diamond studded life. I mean, how many woman can say their significant other gave up the throne for them? She had an insatiable appetite for jewelry and she had one fabulous citrine tiara. The current Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, also loves citrine jewelry and has the most fabulous pair of citrine earrings.


If you are looking to make a statement, November’s gems is the way to go. Their gorgeous colors are to die for and they won’t cost you an arm and a leg. They can also be a suitable substitute for those gems that can cost an arm and a leg, especially when you get upwards of 10 carats. But mostly it’s because they’re oh so pretty. I mean, there are those that can have anything they want and they choose to wear topaz and citrine gemstones. And this is one gem where you can actually afford the same carat size as the royals. How often can you say that?

If you’re interested in seeing these magnificent gems in person,
please give me a call at 619.223.2151 or send me over an email so we can talk some more.

If you are ready to begin your quest for the perfect earrings call us at (619) 223-2151 or come in and see us! We look forward to seeing you!

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