Citrine Vs Yellow Topaz – An Easy Guide Of Differences


This post contains affiliate links: Full Disclosure 

Citrine and yellow topaz are both beautiful yellow crystals, but they do have some big differences between them…

Citrine is a yellow quartz crystal that forms in six-sided hexagonal prisms, like a honeycomb. Yellow topaz is a silicate crystal with long prisms that have straight sides meeting at right angles.

Let’s explore what makes citrine so different from yellow topaz, so you can tell one from the other.

In this blog post, you’ll discover:

  • The differences between citrine and yellow topaz
  • A table summarizing the differences between citrine and yellow topaz

The differences between citrine and yellow topaz

Here’s a list of differences between citrine and yellow topaz…

Citrine is quartz, yellow topaz is a silicate

Citrine and yellow topaz are completely different crystals.

Citrine is a yellow quartz crystal that gets its color from iron impurities in the crystal. Yellow topaz is an aluminum silicate fluoride crystal, and it usually gets its color from a flaw in the crystal’s structure.

Let’s dig into the nitty gritty of what these crystals are made of and how they get their color.

Citrine is made up of silicon and oxygen, like all quartz crystals.

Genuine citrine crystals shining in natural light
This is citrine, a pale yellow quartz crystal.

Pure quartz is colorless or white, but small amounts of other elements, called impurities, can color quartz under certain conditions.

Pure quartz is colorless or white
Clear quartz, like the one in this photo, is white or transparent.

As soon as quartz gets a color, it is given another name. For example, purple quartz is called amethyst and brown or black quartz is called smoky quartz.

In nature, citrine is often found with amethyst or smoky quartz. In fact, citrine is amethyst or smoky quartz that got hot. The heat turned small amounts of iron in the crystal yellow, to create citrine.

Topaz is made up of aluminum, silicon, oxygen, fluorine, and hydroxide.

Impurities can turn topaz different colors, but experts don’t think this is how yellow topaz forms. Most researchers agree that topaz is yellow because of defects or abnormalities in its structure.

Citrine and yellow topaz form in different shapes

There are seven crystal systems, and all crystals fall under one of these systems.

Citrine has a trigonal crystal system, and it usually forms in six-sided hexagonal prisms, much like a honeycomb pattern. Each prism’s ends (terminations) join together at the tip to look like a pyramid.

Photo of a citrine tower and an illustration showing what a slice looks like from the trigonal hexagonal crystal system
If you cut a “slice” out of this citrine crystal, it would look like a six-sided hexagon.

Yellow topaz falls under the orthorhombic crystal system, and it forms long crystals in the shape of a prism. The sides of each prism can be different lengths, but all sides meet at right angles.

An example of this structure is a rectangular prism, like a shoebox. The sides of the shoebox are all straight and meet each other at right angles, but the lengths of the sides are not all the same (two shorter sides and two longer sides).

That’s how crystals in the orthorhombic system often look – they have straight sides forming right angles, but the sides can be different lengths.

Photo of a yellow topaz tower and an illustration showing what a slice looks like from the orthorhombic crystal system
If you cut a “slice” out of this yellow topaz, it would look a lot like a shoebox.

Citrine and yellow topaz come from different countries

Natural citrine is rare, even though it’s found in several countries. Most natural citrine comes from Brazil, Bolivia, and Madagascar.

Most citrine on the market is man-made, which I wrote about in this article comparing natural and man-made citrine, and whether man-made citrine is real citrine or not.

Yellow topaz is not rare and is quite widely available. Most yellow topaz comes from Brazil, Russia, and Sri Lanka.

Citrine and yellow topaz break in different ways

Both citrine and yellow topaz break under enough pressure – but how they break is very different.

Citrine is a quartz crystal. Quartz is quite special as it has the same strength throughout the crystal, which means it does not break along clear, straight lines.

Under some pressure, quartz starts fracturing. These fractures randomly spread through the quartz, without any parallel groups of cracks.

Keep adding pressure and the crystal finally breaks…

But when quartz breaks, it forms curved, shell-like surfaces, a bit like how the bottom of a glass bottle breaks. We call this a “conchoidal fracture.”

Photo with labels showing the curves and shell-like appearance of a conchoidal fracture
This photo shows what a conchoidal fracture looks like. See how the edges are rounded and the surface looks like a seashell?

To understand how topaz breaks, we need to understand cleavage. Cleavage planes are weak paths where crystals tend to break more easily.

Cleavage planes are kind of like the pre-marked lines in a slab of chocolate. As soon as you put pressure on the chocolate, it’s likely to break along those lines. The same thing happens with crystals that have cleavage planes, though we can’t see the planes.

Yellow topaz has well-developed cleavage planes: If you apply enough force to the crystal, it breaks in straight lines along its lines of weakness.

Yellow topaz is slightly harder than citrine

We measure the hardness of minerals on the Mohs scale from 1 to 10. Minerals that are high on the scale are harder than softer minerals that fall lower on the scale.

Citrine is a 7 on the Mohs scale and yellow topaz is an 8. This means that yellow topaz is slightly harder than citrine, making topaz a bit more durable and resistant to scratches even though both are very strong crystals.

To give you an idea of how hard they are, citrine and topaz are both rated as harder than copper and steel.

This info might come in handy if you want to know if you have citrine or yellow topaz in your hands. You see, minerals can scratch softer minerals and minerals with the same hardness rating, but minerals can’t scratch other minerals that are harder than them.

If you want to test if a crystal is topaz or quartz, try scratching it in an inconspicuous place with a piece of quartz. If you see scratches on the surface of the crystal, even if it’s with a magnifying glass, then you probably have citrine.

If you can’t scratch the crystal with your quartz, then it’s likely to be citrine or another hard yellow mineral.

Citrine bends light less than yellow topaz

You know how a straw looks bent when you put it in a glass of water? Well, light bends like this too when it moves from one material to another.

In fact, we can measure how much light bends when it passes through things like crystals. And because crystals are made up of different materials, light bends differently with different crystals.

The refractive index measures how much light bends or changes direction when it passes through something. The higher the refractive index of a material, the more light bends, and the lower the refractive index of a material, the less light bends.

Citrine has a refractive index of about 1.54 to 1.56. Yellow topaz has a slightly higher refractive index, from about 1.61 to 1.64. So citrine bends light a little bit, but yellow topaz bends it a little more.

To accurately measure a crystal’s refractive index and decide which crystal you have, you need to use a gem refractometer. If you don’t want to buy one, contact your local lapidary group or ask a qualified jeweler to take a look for you with their equipment.

Yellow topaz forms rainbows, citrine doesn’t

White light is made up of all seven colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

When white light passes through a crystal, it can get split into these colors because different colors bend at slightly different angles. This effect is called dispersion.

Think of how a hanging crystal suncatcher, like this one, scatters colors around a room when sunlight catches it. This is the result of dispersion.

Citrine doesn’t separate the colors in white light as much as yellow topaz does.

Citrine is quartz, which has a relatively low dispersion. When white light enters citrine, its colors may blend together or show very little separation, so you won’t see rainbows around it.

But when white light enters yellow topaz, it separates and you see a more distinct and vibrant display of colors, similar to a rainbow.

Citrine is for abundance, yellow topaz is for strength

People use crystals to bring them different things.

Citrine brings abundance, success, and positive energy. The crystal is associated with joy and optimism, helps with goal-setting, and enhances creativity and imagination.

Charge citrine and keep it on your body, in your purse or wallet, or in a dreamcatcher for the best results.

Yellow topaz is associated with strength, courage, healing, and protection. The crystal enhances mental clarity, helps with decision-making and problem-solving, and has a calming and balancing effect on emotions.

Table of differences between citrine and yellow topaz

The table below is a quick guide to all the differences between citrine and yellow topaz that I explained in detail above:

PropertyCitrineYellow topaz
CompositionQuartz crystalSilicate
Crystal shapesSix-sided hexagonal prismsStraight sides of different lengths meeting at right angles to form prisms
OriginBrazil, Bolivia, and MadagascarBrazil, Russia, and Sri Lanka
Breaks under pressureConchoidal fractures that look like shellsBreaks off in straight lines
Mohs scale78
Refractive index1.54 to 1.561.61 to 1.64
DispersionNo rainbow-like effectsRainbow-like effects
Good forAbundance, success, and positive energyStrength, courage, healing, and protection
© Jewel And Crystal Guide

Monique from Jewel and crystal guide

I’m Monique, and I’m passionate about giving the facts and uncovering the mysteries of jewels and crystals.

I believe there’s a place for both science and mysticism, and this is where the two meet for a cup of coffee and a chat.

Jewel And Crystal Guide participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other affiliate programs. If you buy a product or service through a link, I may receive a small commission from the sale for referring you, at no cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Sidebar - Free Guide
What you get from the Cleansing crystals PDF for free
Get it now button for sidebar


Monique loves crystals and has been collecting them for many years.

She loves learning about how they form, where they come from, and how they help us in our daily life.

She shares everything that she learns and tests here at Jewel And Crystal Guide.


Related Posts
Calcite Guide: All You Need To Know

Calcite Guide: All You Need To Know

What is calcite Calcite is mainly made up of calcium carbonate. There’s a lot of calcium carbonate around – it’s found in rocks, eggshells, and in the shells of marine organisms, snails, and pearls. It also forms beautiful crystals! While calcite crystals can be...

read more