Exploring the November Birthstone: Citrine and Its Lustrous Yellow Gold Hue

As the November sun fades quickly into cold early-winter nights, we look for warmth and light to carry us into the winter months. So it should come as no surprise that the birthstone of November has all the warmth and yellow sunshine of the sun itself. The citrine, the birthstone for November for almost one hundred years, is actually a form of quartz that is distinguished by its warm yellow tone, a color unique to the citrine among all the gemstones in its class. Besides for its wide use in fashionable jewelry, citrine is also renowned for the incredible array of mystical and medical properties that have been attributed to this mid-priced stone.
November Birthstone Citrine
November Birthstone Citrine
The November birthstone is named for the French word “citrin,” which means lemon. Although the citrine’s tones are warmer and more golden than a lemon, the name still connotes the hue that is uniquely the color of November’s birthstone. However, the citrine’s hue can range from a very pale yellow to a dark amber tone known as Madeira for its resemblance to the red wine.
Citrine in its natural state is an extremely rare stone, so there is very little mention of the gemstone in ancient texts. The Romans may have been the first to use citrine by cutting it into cabachons, polished but unfaceted gems, but citrine was never as popular as it was in the eighteenth century, during the Romantic period. The pairing of the golden yellow gems with yellow gold created an intense effect the jewelry artisans of the period loved.
Citrine, like amethyst, is a form of quartz with enough clarity and integrity to be cut into jewelry-quality gemstones. Citrine, also called yellow quartz, is found in igneous metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, and it is believed that the same crystal may form into a yellow citrine or a purple amethyst depending on the heat emanating from nearby molten rocks. (Amethyst and citrine can sometimes occur together in the same crystal—a gemstone called ametrine.) In fact, citrine does change color depending on its exposure to heat and light—a feature that is used to enhance the quality of natural citrines, but also the reason that customers are warned not to leave citrines out in the sun. The color of the November birthstone is often enhanced by heating the stone, which deepens and intensifies the color. Natural citrine is sometimes available, although it has a much paler color and lacks the subtle red tint of heat-treated citrine.
Citrine Pendant
Citrine Pendant
With its sunny color, it should come as no surprise that citrine is said to symbolize happiness and hope. Like the yellow rose, the citrine represents friendship, making it perfect for gift-giving occasions that don’t call for the more romantic ruby or diamond. Although most people no longer believe, as people once did, that the citrine is a talisman against evil and snakebite, there are still those who attribute mystical powers to the November birthstone. According to those who practice alternative energy-based medicine, citrine contains within it the healing properties of the sun itself. It fills the wearer with light, clearing away toxins and inspiring and motivating the wearer with its bright energy. According to the chakra energy belief system, citrine aligns the chakras and helps balance your energy, dispelling anger and depression and providing the optimistic burst of a day in the sun.
Others say that citrine enhances mental clarity, and stimulates memory, while still others attribute myriads of health-enhancing properties like digestion aid, removal of toxins, healing of the kidney, liver and heart, and even fighting diabetes. It has been used as a remedy for kidney and urinary problems. Wearing a citrine is said to bring light-heartedness, joy and protection to the wearer, while also calming and soothing him or her and dispelling anxiety. It is even said to open a bridge between the mental state and intuition, helping the wearer connect with his or her spirit and sparking the creative mind.
Of course, as beautiful as the citrine is, none of these claims have ever been proven scientifically, and most people wear the citrine for its color or for the November birthstone connection.
An alternate birthstone for November is the yellow topaz, which means that the November birthstone color remains the same no matter which stone you choose. Yellow topaz, with the same sunny golden hues as citrine, has also been long associated with the sun, in the case of topaz all the way back to ancient Egypt. However, since citrine is significantly less expensive and looks very similar to yellow topaz, it is often the preferred choice for birthstone and fashion jewelry.
Heat-treated citrine is a relatively affordable gemstone, and thus was widely used during the Art Deco period of the 1920’s, specifically in large, elaborate jewelry pieces for movie stars of the period, like Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo. Although citrine’s use declined because its low price meant it did not connote the same luxury as rubies or emeralds, in recent years, the increasing trend towards large, statement jewelry pieces have ushered in a revival for the citrine. Citrine works beautifully in today’s statement jewelry like cocktail rings and pendant necklaces, and can be used together with other colored gemstones to form attention-grabbing multicolored pieces.

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