yellow topaz ring
yellow topaz ring

Why are Topaz and Citrine Gemstones Misidentified?


Learn why citrine gemstones are sometimes misidentified as topaz. A professional appraisal by an independent gem lab is the best way to identify your gems.

1 Minute Read

Question:Could you explain the difference between topaz and citrine gemstones? I recently had appraised what I believed to be a 1-carat topaz. When I bought the gem 18 years ago, the jeweler appraised it as a topaz. Now, the new appraisal says it's a citrine. I questioned the appraiser and he said that topaz and citrine gemstones are basically the same and that citrines are more valuable. I was led to believe very differently when I purchased the stone. Then, it was appraised for $530 as a topaz. Now, it's been appraised for $295 as a citrine. What's going on?
yellow topaz ring
Yellow topaz ring. Photo by Mark Somma. Licensed under CC by 2.0.

Answer: Topaz and citrine are definitely not "basically the same." Citrine gemstones, a yellow variety of quartz, are sometimes erroneously identified, even in appraisals, as topaz.

A Little History of Topaz and Citrine Gemstones

Before the 20th century, all gems in the brown, orange, and yellow color range were called topaz. Modern gemology was only recognized as a science in the 1930s. Now, we recognize topaz and yellow or brown quartz as separate gem species.

Interested in this topic?

This article is also a part of our Topaz Specialist Mini Course, in the unit Introduction to Topaz.

Topaz and quartz have different chemical, physical, and optical properties. However, many jewelers have continued to use the old names. Topaz gems occur in red and blue as well as yellow, but the popular association with yellow remains strong.

Topaz and Quartz are Valued Differently

Topazes typically appraise for more than quartz gems of similar appearance. The quartz family of gems is much more common than topaz. So even though they may look alike, the more common quartz varieties are less valuable than topaz.

This might explain why some vendors may refer to yellow or brown quartz as topaz. For example, "smoky topaz" is much more likely to be smoky quartz than actual brown topaz. Citrine gemstones (yellow quartz) are less frequently confused with topaz gemstones, but it does happen.

See our list of false and misleading gemstone names for more examples of quartz referred to commercially as varieties of topaz.

Appraisers Can Make Mistakes

Some jewelers can perform accurate appraisals. Others cannot. Consumers should realize there are no qualifications or regulations for writing a gemstone appraisal. To protect your investment, contact an independent gemology lab that specializes in identification and appraisal.

Donald Clark, CSM IMG

citrine gemstones
Silver and citrine rings. Photo by Mauro Cateb. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

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