November: Month of Citrine

October 21, 2002
Burke Museum
Citrine as naturally occurring crystals.

Photo: “Citrine” by Sedona Hiker is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Citrine as cut and polished gemstones

Photo: “Citrine” by Mauro Cateb is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

History of citrine

The first civilization thought to wear citrine (a yellow variety of quartz) were the Romans, who shaped it into cabochon—polished but unfaceted cuts of stone worn in jewelry. During the Romantic Period in turn-of-the-century Europe, citrine became more popular for the way it visually enhances gold jewelry. Citrine, like all forms of quartz, was believed to have magical powers and was worn as protection against evil and snake venom poisoning.

Science of citrine

Some citrine actually began as purple amethyst, but heat from nearby molten rock changed it to a warm yellow color. Citrine is one of the less-common varieties of quartz, and it ranges from a pale yellow to a dark amber that's named Madeira for its resemblance to the red wine of Portugal.

Group: Quartz
Class: Silicates
Subclass: Tectosilicates
Chemistry: SiO2, silicon dioxide

An alternate birthstone for November is yellow topaz.

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