November Birthstones; Topaz & Citrine


The yellow variety of topaz, known as ‘Imperial Topaz’ is the widely recognized modern birthstone for the month of November and the traditional birthstone for the Zodiac sign of Scorpio, along with citrine as the alternate ‘lucky gem’. The spirit of topaz is captured by this anonymous old rhyme:

Who first comes to the world below
With dreary November’s fog and snow,
Should prize the topaz’s amber hue
Emblem of friends and lovers true…

The ‘amber hue’ referred to by the poet evidently refers to the ‘Imperial Topaz’,

the choice of which, amongst other colors of topaz, is attributable to the tradition-based harmony of colors maintained between modern and traditional birthstones and alternate gems respectively, as seen in the combination of yellow topaz and citrine.

The golden color of imperial topaz was interpreted by the Egyptians as ‘the glow cast by the sun god ‘Ra’ and a gift of this gemstone symbolized friendship and enhanced one’s capacity to give and receive love.

Originally found on the island Topazios in the Red Sea, topaz is a mineral gem composed of fluorine aluminum silicate and occurs with a wide array of colors, ranging from yellow to yellowish-brown, green, blue, red, pink and white or colorless.

Topaz is one of the ‘apocalyptic stones’ that form the foundations of the Twelve Gates to the Holy City of New Jerusalem, stones intended to serve in protection against enemies and as symbols of beauty and splendor.

Topaz was first mined in Germany in the 18th century, then referred to as ‘Schneckenstein’ meaning snail-stone due to the close resemblance of the topaz-bearing rocks to snail-shells. Today, topaz deposits can be found in Brazil, the Ural Mountains of Russia, Thailand, India, Japan Australia, Africa, Scotland, and Ireland.

Popular throughout the ages, Topaz has been associated with innumerable qualities and powers. Greeks of the ancient civilization considered yellow topaz as a guardian against all calamity, and associated its color with the sun, in turn the ‘giver of life’.

The Romans wore topaz as a means of protection against danger and injuries from burns and scalds, and Emperor Hadrian ruled over a peaceful Roman Empire wearing as a talisman, an antique ring mounted with topaz intaglio engraved with the Empire’s emblem. In the Middle Ages, topaz was believed to calm anger, strengthen the intellect, reduce apprehensions, and bestow joy and contentment upon its wearer.

Interestingly, ancient cultures related most of the qualities found in topaz to the phases of the moon, with stronger powers becoming tangible near the full moon!

Citrine, the alternate birthstone for November, is as warm a color as a Van Gogh painting of sunflowers. A crystalline variety of quartz, its name is derived from the French word ‘citron’, meaning lemon, and offers a color palette of the palest yellow to dark amber, named Madeira because of its resemblance to the red wine which was a popular variety throughout the Victorian era, but often referred to inaccurately as topaz.

Mined primarily in Brazil, citrine is also found in Madagascar, Uruguay, Spain and Hungary, and was carried in ancient times as a talisman to protect against snake venom, evil thoughts, and epidemics.

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