November has two gemstones as birthstones – citrine and topaz. Historically, citrines and topaz were often confused as topaz was commonly seen in yellow and pink colours, rather than the blue that we see today. All yellow stones were described as being topaz.
Citrine is a member of the Quartz family of gemstones. Dark orange citrine was inaccurately described as ‘Madeira topaz’. The name ‘citrine’ comes from the French word for lemon which is ‘citron’. Usually, natural citrine is a pale yellow colour but most citrine has been heat treated and can have a reddish tint.
As mentioned earlier, there was historical confusion about the names of yellow and gold and even green gemstones, and they were all described as topaz, based on the island of Topazos in the Red Sea (later called Zabargad, and now St James) were many were mined. The island of Topazos was often hidden by fog and the word ‘topaz’ comes from an early Eygptian dialect word ‘to seek’. It was not until the 18th century that topaz was correctly identified. Topazes actually come in a range of colours – yellow, orange, pink, blue, light green, reddish brown – and colourless, the later often used as a substitute for diamonds.
The most valuable topazes are pink and golden sherry or quince coloured (also known as ‘Imperial topaz’). The most common colours today are a range of blues – ‘London Blue’, ‘Swiss Blue’ and ‘Sky Blue’- all of which have been derived from irradiation.