Can You Tell the Difference Between Natural Citrine and Treated Citrine?
Citrine is one of the most commonly faked crystals. Yes, it is a real crystal, but most of the time it is heat-treated amethyst and sometimes smoky quartz. When I first learned my first piece of “citrine” was heat-treated amethyst, I was very disappointed. I sought out citrine for its purpose of manifesting abundance and high vibrations, whereas amethyst is more of a calming crystal.
Why do people care if their citrine is heat treated or genuine natural citrine?
Most people use specific crystals for their vibrational frequency to heal their mind or body. Others use citrine for manifesting proposes, crystal grids, or spell work. When you use baking powder instead of baking soda in your baking recipe, you would be disappointed someone labeled your minerals wrong! (Go ahead and try it and you'll quickly understand).
Other reasons why you should care if your citrine is natural and unaltered is that heating crystals at high temperatures at a rapid rate (unlike the natural process found in the earth) can weaken the structure of the crystal and the crystal becomes brittle and is prone to breakage, which is usually why you see heated citrine chips or small raw points often.
How to Tell the Difference
The main difference between amethyst and citrine are the crystal formations and the color. Amethyst comes in cluster formations and ranges from light purple to deep purple, and when heated over 300-400 degrees Celsius it turns the purple to yellow or orange.
Citrine has finely distributed iron minerals (mostly hematite and goethite) which creates the yellow color within quartz. Mindat.org is a wonderful site to learn about the scientific side of crystals and where they are sourced.
Very few cases of citrine grow in clusters, and those are found in Africa in Kundalini Candle Quartz and in Spirit Quartz as shown below.
Natural citrine will very rarely ever grow in clusters like amethyst, so when you see a bright yellow, orange, or burnt orange-hued crystal in an even cluster formation, it is most likely a form of heat-treated amethyst. Another way to tell is if the root of the crystal is white but the tip is an orange or bright yellow color. That is a dead giveaway for an altered crystal. Natural authentic citrine will not have this white base. (Examples shown below)
Natural Citrine grows in points like a normal clear quartz variety and has a very slight transparent champagne yellow to honey color and is very rare to find. Both crystals still contain metaphysical properties, but treated amethyst will not contain the same properties of citrine.
In the picture above, the crystal chips are a pale natural citrine. In the image they almost look clear, but when you have a handful of them the champagne color really comes out. Also note that even though citrine grows in points, you can still find chips, tumbles, and spheres due to man made lapidary processes.
Smoky citrine is an amazing crystal commonly grown in Brazil and Africa which has the presence of smoky quartz and really brings out the honey color to citrine. Some varieties are lighter in color than others, depending on the amount of smoky quartz included. Although still rare, they are easier to find than a natural citrine without the smoky quartz inclusions.
In the picture below, the bottom right points are what you commonly find out of China which is an altered form of what they call 'citrine'. There is no consistent color all the way through the crystal and you can see a smokiness at the top which usually comes from irradiation process, also it is a bright yellow color. Although the earth can do an irradiation process, it would be a consistent color throughout and not in spots like those points. Also note the shape of the tips, on a Brazilian Smoky Citrine, there will be an Isis face (5 sided face) shown in the middle honey colored jewelry point or a large flat face like shown in the larger Smoky Citrine tower below. In the Chinese fakes (bottom right in the picture below), there are 6 faces that are all the same size.
Kundalini Candle Quartz
My all-time favorite variety of citrine comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is called Kundalini Candle Quartz or Candle Quartz for short. This natural form of citrine comes in different qualities such as clear with the light yellow tint, honey colored, or smoky yellow, which is a form of smoky citrine. Kundalini Candle Quartz will grow in clusters, but very different than amethyst. The cluster formation of Candle Quartz grows at the base around a larger point and the small points grow upward. Whereas heated amethyst clusters are usually a jagged point face on an almost linear surface. (See below for examples).
Update: Below I show a variety of natural citrine from different locations and the variation of colors in which they range.
In the above photo you can see five different colors of natural citrine. The bottom large polished point is a gorgeous champagne yellow from Zambia Africa. The three crystals in the middle are from Lwena, Democratic Republic of Congo, ranging from a very pale color almost clear to a dark honey smoky citrine. The last crystal point near my finger tips is a honey colored natural citrine from North Brazil.
Depending on the geographic location and the environmental factors of where citrine is grown you will see a wide variety of colors, but never will they have a dark orange tint such as heat treated amethyst.
I hope this helps you in knowing the difference when shopping for citrine, the true test is if you vibe with your crystal whether it is heat-treated or not. Crystals can be beautiful decor for your home bringing positive energy and they can also be useful as spiritual tools with a variety of uses. To learn more about how to pick out crystals you can check out my blog post on crystal shopping for beginners.