art by Rachel Anderson


Perhaps because of its scarcity, there is little mention of Citrine used as a gemstone prior to the first century B.C. The Romans were thought to be the first to wear the yellow quartz, crafting it into cabochon, or highly polished but unfaceted cuts of stone set into jewelry. Citrine became more popular during the Romantic Period, when artisans often favored these warm colored gems to enhance gold jewelry. Citrine, like all forms of quartz, was believed to have magical powers and was worn as a talisman against evil thoughts and snake venom. It was also considered to have medicinal properties and was commonly used as a remedy for urinary and kidney ailments.

A saffron-yellow variety of topaz found in Sri Lanka, known as the Indian Topaz, has always been popular throughout India as a Talisman, being worn for health, caution, sagacity, and the prevention of sudden death. Because of these same qualities its favour is equally strong throughout Burmah, and it is always included in the Nan-Ratan, the sacred nine-stone jewel, which forms the most important ornament in the Burmese regalia.

According to the Roman author Pliny, the Topaz derives its name from the Island of Topazos in the Red Sea, where it was first found, and he says the word Topazein means "to seek after" the island being so often lost amidst fogs. Some pirates who were weather-bound on this island and hard-pressed by famine, in tearing up roots for food accidentally discovered the stone.

It is said that the Roman Emperor Hadrian, whose reign was one of the most prosperous and peaceful in Roman history, and who was most ardent in spreading Christianity, even writing an address to his soul on his death-bed (which inspired Pope's poem, "The Dying Christian to his Soul"), used as a Talisman an antique ring set with a Topaz which was engraved in Roman letters with the words NATURA—DEFICIT,—FORTUNA—MUTATUR,—DEUS—OMNIA—CERNIT, an expression of faith in the Almighty to overrule Nature and Fortune most appropriate to the owner of the ring. The Romans wore the topaz as a preservative from pestilential atmosphere, also to protect its wearer against perils and dangers in travelling, injuries from burns and scalds, and to avert all complaints of the chest and bowels.

The Topaz was called by Pliny "The Stone of Strength," and he describes as the most valuable, stones that have a predominating tint of orange in their colouring. Albertus Magnus recommends it as a cure for gout, and Camillus Leonardus as a charm against hæmorrhoids; lunacy, and sudden death; also to bring riches to its wearers, and the favours of princes.

During the Middle Ages the topaz was believed to dispel enchantments or spells if set in gold and bound on the left arm or hung round the neck. It preserved the wearer of topaz from sensuality, calmed anger and frenzy, strengthened the intellect, brightened the wit, gave joyousness and contentment, and drove away broodings and depression. It was also worn in the medieval era as a cure for asthma and as a specific treatment against insomnia, being sometimes powdered and taken in wine.
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