How Rare is Natural Citrine?

Citrine is a bright yellow variety of quartz that is highly desired for its sunny color and metaphysical properties. However, natural citrine is actually quite rare compared to the abundant amounts of heat-treated amethyst that are commonly sold as “citrine.” So just how rare is natural citrine?

True natural citrine is formed when trace amounts of iron are present in the quartz crystals as they grow. The iron acts as a colorant, producing the golden yellow to orange-brown hues characteristic of citrine. This process occurs rarely in nature, so natural citrine deposits are very limited. The largest source of natural citrine crystals is a single mine in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil which produces crystals ranging from pale yellow to a deep amber color.

Beyond the Brazilian mine, natural citrine is found sparsely throughout the world. Small amounts have been unearthed in Spain, France, Greece, Madagascar, Russia and the Ural Mountains. The United States produces a very limited quantity of natural citrine as well, usually light yellow in color. However, essentially all of the commercial citrine on the market originates from the one Brazilian source.

In contrast, heat-treated amethyst is widely abundant and inexpensive to produce. Amethyst is a popular purple variety of quartz found in plentiful quantities around the world. By applying heat of 450-1000°C, the purple color of amethyst is driven off, leaving a yellow to brown stone that resembles citrine. This heat treatment can be done on a mass scale, allowing merchants to produce large amounts of “citrine” at a fraction of the cost of mining natural citrine.

In fact, nearly all citrine sold at commercial jewelry stores today is heat-treated rather than natural. It is estimated that over 90% of citrine on the market is heat-treated amethyst. This includes citrine sold under trade names like “Madeira citrine” or “Rio citrine.” True natural, untreated citrine is exceptionally rare in commercial jewelry.

So how can you tell if a stone is natural citrine or heat-treated amethyst? Untreated citrine tends to have a bright lemony yellow color, while heat-treated stones run darker, with orange and brown hues. Natural citrine also exhibits unique crystalline patterns that are destroyed during the heating process. An experienced gemologist may also detect signs of heating through laboratory analyses.

In summary, natural citrine is far rarer than its prevalent heat-treated counterpart. The availability of inexpensive treated amethyst stones has made real citrine quite elusive in most typical jewelry store settings. Seeking out a qualified gemologist can help locate the uncommon few sources of natural, untreated citrine stones. Though difficult to find, the sunny brilliance of this rare yellow quartz makes it a highly alluring gemstone for those seeking its compelling color and crystal properties.