Citrine is the yellow to red-orange variety of crystalline quartz. Clever marketing and the rise of “earth tone” fashions have made this durable and readily available gem a popular jewelry stone in recent years.
Citrine’s color ranges from yellow, to orangey yellow, to yellowish orange, to brownish orange. The name citrine is used for any transparent quartz in that color range – regardless of its saturation. Stones with a faint color and stones with a rich color are all called “citrine”.
The quality of a stone’s color has an enormous impact on its price. Stones with a faint color are abundant and inexpensive. Stones with a rich, uniform color are rare, valuable, and preferred by buyers.
Reddish orange and reddish brown are rare colors in quartz. Gems of these reddish colors are often called Madeira citrine. The name is after wines of similar color made in the Madeira Islands, an autonomous region of Portugal, located in the North Atlantic Ocean about 450 miles southwest of Portugal.
Citrine and topaz both serve as birthstones for the month of November. Topaz was one of the original modern birthstones selected by the National Association of Jewelers in 1912. Citrine was added to the modern birthstones list in 1952.
Citrine and topaz are both available in the yellow to orange color range, but citrine generally has a much lower cost. Citrine has a Mohs hardness of 7 and topaz has a Mohs hardness of 8. That information might make some people believe that topaz has a higher durability than citrine. However, topaz is a brittle mineral that easily breaks by cleavage. It has little, if any, durability advantage over citrine.