More than 450 years ago, a German metallurgist by the name of Georg Bauer realized the value of a name in marketing and renamed yellow quartz “citrine”. Known to some as "the father of mdern mineralogy” Bauer used the name citrine in his 1556 publication about gemstones and jewelry. The most likely root of the word citrine is from the old French word for yellow--citron--or the Latin word citrus for the color of citrus fruit. Madeira citrine is a darker, reddish-brown variety of quartz. Some say it gets its name from the Brazilian word for wood or wood-colored, while others say Madeira citrine is named after the fortified wine made in the Madeira Islands just off the coast of Portugal.
[Light Yellow Oval Cut Citrine shown to the right is from GemstonesLooseInc of Etsy.]
Citrine has been used as an embellishment on tools and in the jewelry making industry for thousands of years. In ancient Greece, it gained popularity as a decorative gem during the Hellenistic Age, roughly between 300 and 150 B.C. The gem was carried as a protection against snake venom and evil thoughts. Also known as a "merchants' stone”, it was placed with cash profits to not only acquire wealth but to maintain it as well. Another practice was to place the stone on the forehead of an elder, believing it would increase their psychic power. Ancient Romans also used it for beautiful jewelry and intaglio (engraved gem) work. In the 17th century, Scottish weapon makers placed citrine on dagger handles, sometimes using a single large citrine crystal as the handle itself.
Largely due to Queen Victoria’s fascination with the gem, citrine became a popular gemstone for traditional Scottish kilt pins and shoulder brooches. In 1852, the British Empire’s Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, began construction on a new summer residence within a hundred yards of the 15th century fortress in the Scottish Highlands known as Balmoral Castle. (The Castle still stands today in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and is a favorite private country retreat for the current royal family). Queen Victoria was so fond of Scotland and her new Balmoral home that she commanded guests to wear full Highland plaid attire. This gave her the perfect opportunity to share her love of gemstones found within her kingdom, of which the beautiful citrine was a favorite.
Citrine again rose to prominence during the Art Deco period that began iin the 20's, when opulence was in and high living was a matter of fact. The international appeal of Art Deco design was seen in everything from jewelry, clothing, furniture and interior design to appliances and architecture. Large faceted citrines were set into fine jewelry items, some highlighting the geometric crispness of the period. Fans of 1930s and 1940s Hollywood productions may see some great examples from the short-lived era. Pieces worn by Hollywood starlets such as Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford made women flock to jewelers for the precious stones. Even more, Greta Garbo started her own Art Deco line, with many pieces featuring citrine. Such pieces continue to sell for countless dollar amounts, as many consider them to be priceless. Her collection ranged from elegant cocktail bracelets to opulent headpieces. Joan Crawford often wore an emerald-cut citrine ring that was more than 100 carats. She had a matching cuff bracelet and necklace, also set with huge citrines.
Today this beautiful gemstone is considered to be the Planetary stone for the Sun Sign of Virgo and the accepted gem for the 13th and 17th wedding anniversary.
Most citrine comes from Brazil, but almost all of the Brazilian material is heat-treated amethyst. Citrine with man-made color tends to have more of an orange or reddish cast. Most natural citrine starts life as amethyst until heated in a molten state to change. Natural citrine can also be found in the Ural Mountains of Russia, in Dauphine, France, and in Madagascar. Although the darker, orange colors of citrine have historically been the most valued color, today many prefer bright lemony shades to mix with pastel colors. Nevertheless, natural citrine in darker colors is considered more valuable, including the medium golden orange and dark sherry-colors.
Sunny and affordable, citrine brightens all jewelry, blending especially well with the yellow gleam of polished gold.
Check out what some of our fine Etsy colleagues have done with citrine beads – and be inspired! From top to bottom are:
Meditrina's Double Strand Multi-Gemstone & Gold Necklace
PansariGems' Peridot, Citrine and Amethyst Carved Melon Bead Necklace
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Until Next Time,