Born in November? Lucky you! Your November birthstone is not one, but two beautiful gems: One offers a rainbow of colors; the other is famed for its rich yellows. Make choosing easier by learning more about them, including where they come from.
Who doesn’t love a little armchair travel, particularly when it involves the hunt for two stunning gemstones? To find November’s birthstones, topaz and citrine, we’ll circle the globe and land on three continents. In the process, we’ll learn a little history, geography and what makes these gems so captivating. Are you on board? Then let’s start our journey with topaz.
November Birthstone: The Scoop on Topaz
Think topaz just comes in blue? Think again. You’ll also find topaz in yellow, pale green, pink, purple, vibrant orange and red, as well as a rich, reddish brown that’s the color of fine cognac. The blues of topaz can resemble those of aquamarine.
Topaz gets its color in two ways: trace elements and defects in the crystal structure called color centers. Trace amounts of the element chromium cause natural pink, red and violet-to-purple hues. Color centers create topaz that is yellow, brown and blue. If both chromium and color centers are present, the topaz will be orange.
Imperial topaz, which the trade often describes as a medium reddish orange to orange-red color, is especially valuable. Red and pink topaz are also prized. Yellow, orange and brown are less valuable. Colorless topaz converted by treatment into a variety of blues is the least valuable. Our Topaz Buying Guide can help you make educated decisions before you buy.
Where Topaz Comes From: Imperial Topaz from the Ural Mountains
Imperial topaz was named to honor the Russian czars of the 1800s, and at one time ownership was restricted to the royal family. The Ural Mountains were once a major source of Imperial topaz, but these mines have been largely depleted. In recent years, Brazil has been an important source for this November birthstone.
Imperial topaz’s color is a bit subjective. As noted above, some in the trade describe it as a medium reddish orange to orange-red. Others insist that Imperial topaz must be pleochroic (showing different colors from different angles). The reddish pleochroic color often appears at the ends of fashioned gems – like pear and oval shapes – that have an otherwise yellow-to-orange bodycolor. Some dealers, especially those in Brazil, include yellow topaz in the Imperial category, as well as orange, pink and red. The debate continues, with the definition of Imperial topaz still being contested.
Where Topaz Comes From: Brazil
Brazil produces the majority of the world’s high-quality topaz. The November birthstone is mined in a region near the town of Ouro Preto, in the gem-rich state of Minas Gerais. Although the topaz found there is predominantly yellow to orange, miners have also recovered pink, red and violet topaz, as well as blends of red and purple or orange.
With its majestic colonial churches, steep cobblestone streets and baroque sculptures, the town of Ouro Preto is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Topaz has been mined in the area since 1768. More than a dozen deposits have been identified on the outskirts of Ouro Preto; the Vermelhão and Capão do Lana mines are the most productive. Rolling hills, short grasses and scattered clusters of trees make up the landscape.
Where Topaz Comes From: Pink Topaz from Pakistan
Near the small town of Katlang, in northwest Pakistan, miners began unearthing stunning pink topaz crystals on Ghundao Hill around 1972. Ghundao is a unique source for the November birthstone: The other nearby hill is barren of topaz. Both hills are easily spotted as they rise over a sprawling unbroken plain. The Hindu Kush mountain range looms in the distance.
Only a small portion of the gem material discovered at Ghundao Hill is pink; the rest is colorless to light brown. So the discovery of a fine pink crystal is rare. The prized shade of pink topaz from Katlang is faintly violet in tone, and the best examples are sometimes described by gem dealers as cyclamen pink. When faceted, the pink topaz takes on an excellent polish and displays a lively luster.
Other topaz sources include Namibia, a country on the western coast of southern Africa, and the gem-rich island of Madagascar located off Africa’s southeastern coast.
November Birthstone: The Scoop on Citrine
Long confused with topaz because of its tawny color, citrine is a transparent, pale yellow to brownish orange variety of quartz. Citrine that is an earthy, deep, brownish or reddish orange is especially popular. Its affordability and durability have made it a favorite for consumers seeking a yellow-to-orange gem. Our Citrine Buying Guide can help you pick a stunning one.
Natural citrine is rare, and most gems on the market have been heat treated. Amethyst is typically used, and heat treatment changes its color from an undesirable pale violet to an attractive yellow or orange. The amethyst’s original hue can determine the richness of the resulting citrine’s color. Much of the amethyst from two major Brazilian localities, Marabá and Rio Grande do Sul, is heat treated to citrine.
Where Citrines Come From: Bolivia
The Anahí mine in eastern Bolivia is an important source for natural, unheated citrine. In fact, it is one of the few commercial sources for natural citrine. Gemstones typically range from orange-yellow to brownish/greenish yellow.
The history of the Anahí mine reads like a Hollywood script. Discovered by a Spanish conquistador in the 1600s…given to him as dowry when he married Anahí, a princess from the Ayoreos tribe of Paraguay…lost for three centuries…rediscovered in the 1960s. A happy ending: The mine is still productive.
Having topaz and citrine as your November birthstone gives you numerous choices. There’s a gem for every taste.
Intrigued by topaz? The American Golden Topaz is one of the most famous.