Natural Citrine vs Heat-Treated Citrine
Does it matter?
I’m sure many of you have seen the debate at some point or another between Natural Citrine and Heat-Treated Citrine, but for those of you who haven’t, or those of you who wish to find out a bit more, I hope this blog helps you in finding some answers.
Let us start with the basics. Natural Citrine is a variation of Quartz with the typical Mohs of 7. Citrine was discovered sometime before 300BC but it wasn’t appreciated until around 250BC when it received its name from the Greek word of ‘Citron’. Natural Citrine comes from a variety of countries, with the most notable finds being from Brazil, Madagascar, The Congo, and Zambia.
How to tell the difference?
Before we go into the details of the chemical differences between the two, let’s start with the visual identification. This is the easiest way to be able to tell if you’ve got the real deal or not. Also, if you’re looking for a quick guide on how to find out if your citrine is natural or heat treated, this is the place for you.
Visually speaking, Natural Citrine comes in a variety of formations, but typically has elongated crystals either in a cluster or single point specimens. Natural Citrine is often quite smokey (I’ll explain why later on) and has a very uniform coloration throughout the specimen.
Heat-Treated Citrine comes in diamond shaped points that have been removed from a cluster or clusters with a very similar shape to that of Amethyst. Heat-Treated Citrine ranges from colour between a pale yellow to burnt orange, they also often have a white ‘root’. This form is quite often brittle from the treatment.
Is the crystal any different, just because it looks different?
Within the crystal, down to the chemical structure, they’re worlds apart.
Natural Citrine is created when aluminum and lithium become trapped within the Silicon Dioxide (Quartz) structure that has then been exposed to naturally occurring radiation. This is often why Smokey Quartz, Citrine, and Smokey-Citrine are found together. The ratio of the aluminum and lithium will change what the final outcome is, as well as the level of radiation.
Heat-Treated Citrine, on the other hand, is actually Amethyst. Amethyst forms when Iron becomes trapped within the Silicon Dioxide (Quartz) structure and is then exposed to naturally occurring radiation. This gives Amethyst it’s famous purple coloration. If this Amethyst is then heated to 420°C – 490°C it will become the bright yellow-orange color. This heating process is what makes clusters of Citrine fragile, due to the expansion and contraction of the heating and cooling process.
This process can happen naturally in the world, but it produces very clear crystals that are typically quite burnt. These are also exceptionally rare and can be replicated using the normal process over a longer period of time. Just because it’s a clear specimen with yellow coloration does not guarantee it is natural.
Does this all really matter?
This is a hard question to answer, it both matters and doesn’t, that is a choice for you to make. We’ve always said, it doesn’t so much matter what is written down about a crystal, but more what you experience when holding it.
Where we do believe it matters is transparency. Many people will not inform their clients that the piece they’re looking at is heat-treated, either missing out the information or often saying it is natural; we can’t comment if this is intentional or just misinformation being passed onto them first.
So for us at least, we believe in transparency, including commonly done treatments. It is up to you on if you find you gain benefits or not when working with either variety of Citrine.
We always have a selection of Natural Citrine available, just click here if you’re wishing to look at what is available.