Gem Profile Jan. 6: About Citrine and Ametrine

By on January 6, 2012
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by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong, Wire-Sculpture.com

Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
January 6, 2012

Today's Gem Profile is...

Citrine and Ametrine, one in a Series on Quartz

At the end of my macrocrystalline quartz article featuring amethyst, I mentioned that when transparent amethyst is heated its purple through gray hues will become shades of yellow, gold, and brown. The resulting product is better known as citrine. Natural citrine obtains its bright sunny color from iron oxide and usually shows uneven color zones, can be translucent to milky, and is extremely rare; therefore almost all of the citrine on the market is actually heat-treated amethyst or smoky quartz (the subject of next week’s gem profile). It doesn’t matter if a yellow quartz stone is natural or if it has been heat-treated, it is still legally named "citrine."

heat-treated citrine stalactite

Originally a chunk of amethyst stalactite, this specimen has been heat-treated to produce a lovely citrine, and resides in Dale's studio.


raw citrine wire jewelry

Judy Copeland wrapped this raw citrine in a harness frame, along with polished citrine heart-framed earrings and ring in gold colored round wire.

About Citrine

The name citrine comes from both the French word "citron," meaning citrus, and was most often associated with lemons and the Latin word "citrina," meaning yellow.  Extremely abundant and therefore affordable, citrine carries many labels that mimic its color. Some of these, produced by heating amethyst, are: lemon yellow, canary yellow, honey, yellow-orange, and yellow-brown. If a citrine is labeled lime or yellow-gold, it is more than likely heat-treated smoky quartz (more on that next week).

citrine wire wrap rings

Two wire wrap rings by Elaine Pataky, oneusing an amethyst crystal and sterling silve wire, and the other a citrine crystal and 14/20 gold fill wire.


I actually own a few pieces of what was sold to me as "top" citrine about 17 years ago, where the deep orange color at the bottom of the stone’s pavilion flashes through the facets, giving the stone an almost glowing effect. Of course with all of the new marketing venues today, different colors of citrine have been given new, more attractive names like whiskey, cognac, champagne, and "butterscotch." (I do have to mention here, that I had never heard of butterscotch quartz before and my research found controversial notes as to whether or not this is a natural or a treated type of silica; my guess is, treated!)

citrine gemstones

A variety of faceted citrine, from left to right: 3 "top" citrine, 4 cognac, one natural citrine, 3 lemon and 1 sherry. With the exception of the little stone in the center, all have been cut from heat-treated material.

Natural citrine deposits mainly of a pale yellow color are occasionally found in Brazil, Spain, Russia, France, Madagascar, Scotland, and Colorado, US. Heat-treated "amethyst" citrine can come from all over the world, as the least attractive and less vibrant purples of amethyst are chosen to turn into the more desirable citrine lapidary material, while deeper colors of amethyst are heated to create deep orange and sherry colored stones. Warning: no matter what the color, citrine will fade in bright sunlight!  

citrine beads

A 24-inch strand of huge, chunky, milky citrine beads. (I am still wondering why I bought these!)

Citrine can be used as the modern birthstone for those born in November. I believe this decision may have come from two sources. In the past, citrine was marketed as "gold topaz," causing citrine to be named "Brazilian Topaz" for a while and topaz is the traditional November birthstone; and one of the stones described in the Bible as having been used in Aaron’s Breastplate, from which most birthstones evolved, could have been citrine. So, topaz or citrine? The easiest way to tell citrine/quartz from topaz is to gently feel each stone. Topaz will feel a bit soft and almost soapy or silky, whereas quartz will feel hard and smooth like glass.  

heat-treated cut citrine

Heat-treated citrine can be found as very affordable, large cut stones!

Citrine is the anniversary stone for the 11th year of marriage. Legends tell of early Greek and Roman people associating citrine with the planet Mercury and it was believed to protect one from the venom of both a snakebite and evil thoughts and words, carrying "the power of the sun." Personally, I always have a large citrine crystal in my money bag, as citrine is known as the "merchant’s stone," said to attract money and success (every little bit helps!).

citrine beads and citrine jewelry

Part of Dale's personal collection of designer-cut citrine beads along with part of a wired design that is "in the process."

What is Ametrine?

OK, so now I have a question for you dear reader: what happens when Mother Nature creates a truly beautiful and rare stone that is highly desirable? Answer: man finds a way to duplicate or replicate it! Such is the sad truth about the lovely, bicolor quartz that we know as ametrine. Mainly found in one location on earth, eastern Bolivia, half of this stone is violet and half is yellow-orange. Ametrine’s commercial name comes from a combination of amethyst and citrine. Ametrine is also known as Bolivianite.

ametrine ring

Connie Drake wire wrapped this ametrine gem into a Pharaoh's Ring design with gold wire.

Although ametrine was known about by natives of the area for thousands of years, it wasn’t "discovered" by modern man until a few hundred years ago. The legend of the Anahi mine tells of a Spanish conquistador who received a dowry that consisted of a grotto covered in ametrine crystals, when he was to marry Princess Anahi. At the time, Europeans were focused on finding gold and silver in the "new world," so the beautiful crystals didn’t mean anything special to him. When it came time for him to return to Spain, his new bride planned to accompany him. However, her tribe wouldn’t hear of their princess leaving, and plotted to kill the Spaniard. Princess Anahi learned of the plan and warned her beloved, presenting him with the ametrine crystal she wore around her neck as an amulet. It is said that the princess than went to visit their special grotto once more before leaving her country with her husband, but then she mysteriously disappeared. When the Spaniard heard what happened, he and his crew fled for their lives, only later realizing what the bicolor crystal she had given him symbolized: her love of her country and of him.  

natural ametrine gemstones

100% natural Bolivian ametrine stones, some carved and some faceted that Dale bought when she worked with a gemstone vendor back in the early 1990s. Notice how they do not have a definite line separating the violet from the yellow.

Ametrine is relatively new to today’s gem world, as it didn’t make its official appearance to the lapidary world until 1979 at the Tucson gem shows. Naturally-occurring ametrine is truly a work of art that lapidaries enjoy cutting and carving it into a variety of items to be used in the jewelry making world. Because it is only found in one small country, the best quality natural ametrine, that with a perfect distribution and definition of both colors, soon became more difficult to find. Scientist Dr. Kurt Nassau developed the heat treat method that is used today to produce ametrine stones with "perfect" color balance. While heating amethyst to turn part of it to citrine, occasionally a raspberry color results; if this color is rather pale, it can be called champagne quartz.

champagne quartz

Two samples of what could be called champagne quartz.

Next week I will write a bit about smoky quartz and many of its variations, including a bit more on citrine!

Have you made wire jewelry with smoky quartz before? Email pictures to tips@wire-sculpture.com, and they could be featured!

Resources

Print Resources:

  • Love is in the Earth by Melody, ISBN 0-9628190-3-4
  • Gems and Minerals of the Bible by Ruth V. Wright and Robert Chadbourne, Harper & Row, 1954
  • Minerals of the World by Walter Schumann, ISBN 0-8069-8570-4
  • Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Gems and Precious Stones by Curzio Cipriani and Alessandro Borelli, ISBN 0-671-60430-9

Internet Resources:

Gem Profile by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

Click to Receive Daily Tips by Email


 

13 Comments

  1. avatar

    lindacay

    January 6, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Oh the many colors of quartz i love this article thank you

  2. avatar

    Terri

    January 6, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    You always come through for us and I so want to learn how to wire wrap. My sister does this but she doesn’t have time for me so I must learn from you, I hope this is okay? One of these days when I sale lots of my stuff I want to meet you. Thank you for all you do, Terri

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      January 6, 2012 at 4:57 pm

      We are here for YOU, Terri! As you browse the Wire-Sculpture site, please be sure to check out all of the cool, free patterns, charts and videos in the Resource Center. Almost everything you need to learn as a beginner is right here :)

  3. avatar

    Cathy

    January 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Hi Dale,
    Why did you comment so negatively on the milky citrine? There are a lot of possibilities to be had with those stones, and surely there was something that you saw in them in the first place. I see a number of exotic pieces that can be designed from them!

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      January 6, 2012 at 4:54 pm

      Actually Cathy, I bought those huge beads because of their beautiful colors! It’s the size that perplexes me, because I don’t really “string” I have no idea what I was thinking of making when I bought them! :)

  4. avatar

    Judy Coppeland

    January 7, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Hello Dale,

    Appreciate Wire Sculpture using the design of the harnessed Citrine I sent in. I too did not have a clue of how to work a two inch piece into a design, so went with your idea of the harness or lock that rock design. In time will redo it in square 21 gauge wire. Have received many complements, and one lady said it looked Yummy. Ask her if she wanted a bite, just smiled and said no. She was sweet. Well this is a suggestion for your big string of rocks.

    Maybe try one in a harness and at the top add some pretty small black crystals and small seed pearls in swirls. Do a Viking Knit necklace using cream colored seed pearls, along with small black crystal beads here and there through out the Knit Chain. Found citrine color looks good on deep colors like black, green, some blues, and reds. Oh almost forgot did used your orbit earring design for a some small chunks of citrine I wear all the time. They go with just about everything especially with the Sunflower pendant I designed on a Jig with a gold domed art decore glass for the center.

    Hope this helps as I continue to enjoy each Gem Profile and all the other wonderful information found on this site.

    Keep up the good work,

    Thank so very much,

    Judy Copeland

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      January 8, 2012 at 12:38 pm

      What a cool idea, Judy!! (Your piece is lovely, BTW :) thanks so much for sharing it with us.) And a BIG thank-you for the design idea!! As soon as I can breathe, I am going to try it.

  5. avatar

    Lori Crawford

    January 8, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Thank you so much for the Gem Profiles! Since you have been doing them I have learned so much. It is hard to learn all the gems at one time but the way you are profiling them once a week it is much easier to study each one and to remember all about them. As a jewelry maker is is a great asset to know more about the gems I am working with. And there is so many of them out there that having a chart just isn’t enough these days. I just wanted to thank you for all the help and encouragement you give us each week. And thanks to all the other people on staff to that help us too. Keep up the great work!

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      January 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks for the great comments, Lori! I am so pleased that the info I share helps!!

  6. avatar

    Judy Coppeland

    January 8, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Judy Copeland says:

    Thanks back to you Dale, and when you do have a chance to make it would love a picture if possible of the Citrine Design.

    Your the Best, and keep it comming

  7. avatar

    #A50051

    January 10, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    My cousin gave me a piece of citrine from Oregon that she states she personally panned out of a river during a gold-panning exercise. There were several small pieces of amethyst too, and they all looked polished. She said it was the action of the river that polished the fragments smooth.
    She said that the stone material, both amethyst and citrine were scattered at the bottom of the river like gravel.

    The citrine is rather dark to be natural in my opinion, but I don’t think she’d lie to me. Has anyone heard of such a place? Is she pulling my leg?

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      January 11, 2012 at 10:07 am

      Hello, although natural amethyst can be found in some Oregon locations, natural citrine is extremely rare. If this was a “paid” gold panning experience, it is possible that the location had been “salted” with small tumbled stones, especially if these stones had a “finished” polish on them. Yes, stones naturally tumble in moving water and sand, and they will be smooth, but they will not have a finished polish like those that come out of a tumbler. Often when one pays for an expedition, the promoter will scatter a few semi precious stones about so the customer finds at least “something”.

  8. Pingback: What is Tourmaline? Beautiful! | Jewelry Making Blog | Information | Education | Videos

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