Yellow Quartz vs Citrine – The Similarities and Differences (With Photos)

By Keith Jackson - Geologist

| Updated

Yellow Quartz vs Citrine – The Similarities and Differences (With Photos)

By Keith Jackson - Geologist


They may look like twins, but there are tons of differences between yellow quartz and citrine. Both of these gemstones showcase a dazzling array of yellows. Being varieties of quartz, comparing yellow quartz and citrine is like comparing siblings. But like all siblings, they have their unique traits.

In this exploratory article, we’ll get to know the similarities and differences between yellow quartz and citrine. We’ll unravel their mysteries and discover what makes them distinct from each other and what ties them together.

Get ready because this will be a journey through geology, chemistry, and even a bit of history as we compare them. Let’s begin!

The Major Differences

When it comes to differences, yellow quartz and citrine don’t have much. As we said above, they’re like siblings: alike in many ways but still distinct from each other. Below are their major differences:

Color – Citrine’s color spectrum is broader

Pieces of raw citrine with varying intensities of orange color in a stone on a bowl
Raw citrines on a bowl photo provided by and available for purchase at RhodopeMinerals

When you look at yellow quartz and citrine, you see two beautiful members of the quartz family, each with its own unique shade of yellow. It’s like having two different kinds of sunbeams, each with its special glow.

Yellow quartz is like the soft light of early morning. Its color is a gentle, light yellow, kind of like the peel of a banana or a daisy’s petal.

This color is usually even throughout the stone, giving it a calm and consistent look. Its color comes from tiny bits and pieces that mix in while it’s forming.

As for citrine, its color is like the bright, bold light of a sunset. It can range from a pale, soft yellow to a deep, rich amber or even a hint of reddish-orange.

What’s super interesting is that sometimes, citrine isn’t born that way. It starts as amethyst or smoky quartz, and then heat, either natural or man-made, changes it to that beautiful citrine color.

Composition – Yellow quartz’s color comes from its trace impurities

A raw yellow quartz with a deep yellow hue
Raw yellow quartz photo provided by and available for purchase at FKGEMSTONE

Yellow quartz and citrine may look like they’re just different shades of the same stone, but when we talk about what they’re made of, it’s like uncovering a secret recipe for each.

Both are part of the big quartz family, which is mainly made of something called silicon dioxide. Simply, this is a mix of silicon and oxygen, which are elements found everywhere.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Even though both stones are mostly silicon dioxide, the special thing that makes them different is what’s mixed in with it.

For yellow quartz, the color can come from different things. It might be a little bit of iron, or it might be other stuff that gets into it while it’s forming deep under the ground. These bits are like tiny color artists, painting the quartz a soft, gentle yellow.

Citrine’s secret ingredient, meanwhile, is iron. But the trick is how much iron is in it and how it’s been heated up. The amount of iron and the heat can change its color, making it go from light yellow to deep orange or reddish-brown.

Formation – Citrine forms as a result of natural or man-made heat

A cluster of shiny orange honey orange citrines
Citrine cluster photo provided by and available for purchase at IntuitiveScentsCo

Both yellow quartz and citrine have equally interesting ways of forming deep in the Earth. Both of them start their life as part of the quartz family, but the paths they take to get their unique looks are quite different.

Yellow quartz begins its story in places where rocks are being made or changed— like inside volcanoes or deep within the crust. Here, hot fluids and gases move around, carrying different minerals with them.

As these fluids cool down, quartz starts to form. If there are tiny bits of other stuff, like iron or other minerals in these fluids, they get mixed in with the quartz. This is what gives yellow quartz its soft, lemony color.

Citrine’s journey, in comparison, is a bit more dramatic. It often starts as another type of quartz, like amethyst or smoky quartz. Then, something really hot, like molten rock from a volcano or heat from deep within the Earth, cooks it.

This heat works with the iron in the quartz to change its color. This can turn it into the beautiful shades of yellow, gold, or even reddish tones that we see in citrine. Sometimes, people even heat these stones on purpose to get those rich colors.

Location – Yellow quartz is found worldwide

A captivating yellow iron quartz crystals with hematite blades
Yellow iron quartz with hematite blades photo provided by Ryan Gooding

Yellow quartz is kind of a world traveler. It’s found in lots of places around the globe. You can find it in the U.S. Here’s our article on the best places to find yellow quartz in the U.S. You can also refer to our guide to proven crystal hunting locations.

It’s also in Brazil, Madagascar, and the Alpine regions of Europe. This stone isn’t too picky about where it forms. It can be found in different types of rocks, like those formed by volcanoes.

Citrine, on the other hand, is a bit rarer in its natural form. It’s like a gem that prefers special spots. Brazil is a big source of citrine too, especially the natural kind. Spain, Madagascar, and Russia are other places where you might find this gem.

Here’s a helpful guide to finding citrine if you want to look for it. You can also check out the best rockhounding locations where you might find them.

Often, citrine forms in areas where there’s a lot of heat deep underground, like near volcanoes or places with a lot of geothermal activity. This heat helps change other types of quartz into this gem, giving it those lovely yellow and orange colors.

Price – Natural citrine is rarer and more expensive

A 149.43-carat facet rough citrine from Brazil

Raw citrine photo provided by Arek Varjabedian

Yellow quartz is pretty common, which means it’s usually not too expensive. You can find it in lots of jewelry stores and rock shops, and the price of yellow quartz won’t usually make your wallet feel too light.

This is because it’s found in many places around the world. It’s like a stone that’s happy to be everywhere, so there’s plenty of it to go around.

Citrine, though, is rarer, especially the natural kind. It isn’t found in as many places as yellow quartz, and people like it for its rich colors. This means that the price of citrine is usually higher.

If it’s a really deep, clear color or a big piece, it can go up even more. It’s like paying extra for a special treat that you can’t find just anywhere.

Interestingly, citrine that’s made from heating amethyst or smoky quartz is more common and not as expensive as the natural kind.

The Similarities

Not only do yellow quartz and citrine look closely alike; they’re actually more similar than they are different from each other. As you’ll read below, these two gems have a handful of similarities.

Luster – Yellow quartz and citrine have vitreous luster

Three pieces of raw bright yellow aura quartz
Raw yellow aura quartz photo provided by and available for purchase at ConnectCo

Yellow quartz and citrine are like stars in the night sky when it comes to how they shine. Both of these beautiful stones have a special kind of sparkle called ‘luster.’

Luster describes how light plays on the surface of a mineral. For both yellow quartz and citrine, their luster is ‘vitreous.’ They shine like glass, with a bright, reflective surface that catches your eye.

When you hold a piece of yellow quartz or citrine up to the light, you’ll see how they both glow. Their surfaces are smooth and shiny, making them look really pretty, especially in jewelry.

This is because quartz, which is what they’re both made of, naturally has this glassy shine. This makes both yellow quartz and citrine popular for necklaces, earrings, and rings. When they’re cut and polished, they sparkle even more.

Crystal Structure – Citrine and yellow quartz both have a hexagonal crystal structure

A beautiful deep orange to bright yellow raw citrine

Raw citrine photo provided by De Vendômois Joaillerie Lapidaire

Another property that yellow quartz and citrine share is their crystal structure. The crystal structure is like the skeleton of a mineral, the way its tiny pieces fit together to make its shape.

They both are part of the quartz family, and all quartz minerals have a crystal structure called ‘hexagonal.’ This means if you could look at them closely, like with a microscope, you’d see that their crystals are shaped like six-sided prisms.

This hexagonal structure makes them both look similar in their natural form. If you find them out in nature, you might see them as long, six-sided columns or as part of a larger group of crystals that all fit together.

This structure doesn’t just make them look neat; it also makes them strong. They can stand up to a lot of wear and tear, which is why they’re great for making jewelry.

Cleavage – Both yellow quartz and citrine have no cleavage

A complicated crystal cluster of yellow quartz
Yellow quartz photo provided by SS

In the world of rocks and minerals, cleavage is all about how a mineral breaks. It’s like how some things snap in a neat line while others might break off in all sorts of directions.

Yellow quartz and citrine share the same story about cleavage, which is pretty interesting. Both of them are part of the quartz family, and a big thing they have in common is that they don’t have cleavage.

They don’t break along neat, flat lines. Instead, when you break or chip them, they fracture in a way called ‘conchoidal.’ This means they break off in smooth, curved surfaces— kind of like the way a glass bottle might break.

This lack of cleavage makes them both pretty tough and durable. Since they don’t have natural breaking points, they can handle being made into different shapes for things like jewelry without falling apart easily.

It’s one of the reasons why both yellow quartz and citrine are popular for use in jewelry. You can wear them a lot without worrying too much about them breaking.

Hardness – Citrine and yellow quartz both rate 7 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness

A faceted citrine displaying brownish orange hues
Faceted citrine photo provided by The Faceted Fern

When we talk about the hardness of minerals, we’re talking about how tough or scratch-resistant they are. It’s a big deal in the world of rocks because it tells us how we can use them and how careful we need to be with them.

In this aspect, yellow quartz and citrine are like twins. They’re both pretty tough! Since both of them are part of the quartz family, they have the same level of hardness.

In the world of geology, we measure hardness using the Mohs Scale of Hardness. This scale goes from 1 to 10, with 1 being super soft and 10 being super hard. Both yellow quartz and citrine rank at a 7 on this scale.

What this means is that both of them are strong enough to resist scratches from materials that are lower on the Mohs scale.

This is why they’re great for making jewelry. You can wear them often without worrying too much about them getting all scratched up. They can even scratch glass, which is lower on the scale.

Density – Yellow quartz and citrine are both at 2.65 g/cm³ in density

A fine specimen of yellow quartz
Raw yellow quartz photo provided by Hamza Munir

A rock’s density is about how much stuff is packed into it. It’s kind of like how heavy a rock feels for its size. If we look at yellow quartz and citrine, they’re pretty much the same in this department.

Both of these yellow crystals are part of the quartz family. They’re made of the same basic stuff, silicon dioxide. Because of this, they have the same density. In simpler terms, they have the same amount of heaviness for their size.

The density of yellow quartz and citrine is about 2.65 grams per cubic centimeter. If you had a cube of yellow quartz and a cube of citrine, both the same size, they would weigh about the same.

This similarity in density makes them both great for different uses. They’re not too heavy, but also not too light. It’s like having the perfect balance for something that looks pretty and is easy to wear or display.

Streak – Both citrine and yellow quartz have white streaks

A piece of a raw citrine with a deep honey orange hue
Raw citrine photo provided by Marissa

The streak of a mineral is the color of the powder it leaves behind when it’s rubbed on something rough, like a piece of unglazed porcelain. It’s a cool and reliable way for scientists to identify different minerals.

When it comes to yellow quartz and citrine, they both have the same kind of streak. Despite having different colors in their crystal form, they have the same streak color.

You might think that yellow quartz would leave a yellow streak and citrine would leave an orange streak, but here’s the surprise: they both leave a white streak.

The streak test shows the color of the mineral in its powdered form, and it doesn’t always match the color of the crystal. It’s as if you crushed up colored glass and it turned into white powder.

This white streak is a clue that both yellow quartz and citrine are made of the same basic stuff. It’s like a secret sign that shows they’re related, even though they might look different on the outside.

Magnetism – Neither yellow quartz nor citrine is magnetic

A beautiful lemon-colored yellow quartz
Raw yellow quartz photo provided by Hamza Munir

Magnetism is not only for things like fridge magnets or the big magnets at a junkyard that can lift cars. Rocks and minerals can also be magnetic.

But when it comes to yellow quartz and citrine, which are both part of the quartz family, magnetism is not among their properties. In fact, quartz minerals in general aren’t magnetic.

If you held a magnet up to them, nothing would happen. They wouldn’t stick to the magnet like a paperclip or a nail.

Yellow quartz and citrine are both made from the same basic stuff, silicon dioxide. And as you can guess, silicon dioxide doesn’t have any magnetic properties.

Fluorescence – Citrine and yellow quartz don’t fluoresce

A raw citrine with deep to light orange hues
Raw citrine photo provided by Sarah

When you shine a special kind of light on certain rocks and minerals, they can glow in the dark. It’s like how some stickers glow when you turn off the lights. This is fluorescence.

Here’s the thing, though: not all rocks and minerals can do this. When it comes to yellow quartz and citrine, they’re similar in this feature.

Quartz, where these two gemstones fall, generally doesn’t glow much under ultraviolet light, which is the special light that makes things fluoresce. So, most of the time, if you shine an ultraviolet light on yellow quartz or citrine, they won’t glow.

But, and here’s an interesting twist, sometimes they might show a little bit of fluorescence. This usually happens if there’s something extra inside them, like certain types of impurities or minerals.

It’s not very common, though, so if you do see a piece of yellow quartz or citrine glowing under ultraviolet light, it’s quite special.

Conductivity – Yellow quartz and citrine are both non-conductors

A beautiful yellow quartz with rose hematite on its base
Yellow quartz with hematite rose photo provided by Meng Lu

Have you ever wondered if rocks can conduct electricity like wires do? It’s an interesting question, and when we look at yellow quartz and citrine, we find they have something in common regarding this.

Both of these pretty stones are part of the quartz family, and they’re not great at conducting electricity. Conductivity is all about how well something can pass electricity through it. Some things are good at it, like metals.

But yellow quartz and citrine? Not so much. They’re what we call ‘insulators.’ This means they don’t let electricity flow through them easily. It’s like trying to push water through a solid brick: it just won’t go through.

This non-conductive property is because of what they’re made of. They’re mostly silicon dioxide, and this material isn’t friendly with electricity. It doesn’t let the electric current pass through.

So, if you tried to use a piece of yellow quartz or citrine in an electrical circuit, it wouldn’t work. The electricity would stop right at the stone.

The Easiest Ways To Tell Yellow Quartz And Citrine Apart

A raw citrine exhibiting a cathedral formation
Raw citrine photo provided by GᴇᴏCʀʏsᴛᴀʟs – Aɴ Eʏᴇ ꜰᴏʀ Qᴜᴀʀᴛᴢ

Let’s say you’re out in the field and you stumbled upon a cheery yellow crystal, which can be either a yellow quartz or a citrine. How will you be sure which of these two it is?

Below are some tests and observations you can do that will help you decipher what your find really is:

Check its color

Checking the color of your find is one of the most straightforward ways to tell if it’s yellow quartz or citrine. Both stones display a range of yellow hues, but the intensity and consistency of the color can provide significant clues.

Yellow quartz has a lighter shade of yellow. It’s akin to a consistent, soft lemony hue.

Citrine, in contrast, often shows a yellow hue that can range from a pale, almost pastel shade to a deep, rich amber or even an orange hue.

Look for color zones

Looking for zones of color within your find is also a key factor to consider. This involves examining the stone for areas where the color intensity varies or shifts.

Yellow quartz typically presents a consistent, uniform color throughout. Its hue, a steady and even lemon-yellow, lacks significant variation from one part of the stone to another.

Citrine, however, often displays what are known as color zones. These are areas within the same stone where the intensity and shade of color change.

A citrine might show a gradient of hues, ranging from pale yellow at one end to a deep, rich amber or even reddish-orange at the other. These zones are created by fluctuations in the stone’s environment as it forms.

Do a simple heat test

Quartz, in general, is sensitive to high temperatures, and the heat test involves gently heating the stone and observing any color changes. Remember, this method should be used sparingly and carefully, as excessive heat can damage the stone.

Citrine, especially if it’s natural, might show some color change when subjected to heat. This is because the iron impurities, which give citrine its yellow-to-orange color, can react to heat.

On the other hand, yellow quartz typically doesn’t show significant color changes when heated. Its color, usually resulting from different types of impurities compared to citrine, tends to be more stable under heat.

About Keith Jackson - Geologist

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He is an active Geologist with a wealth of experience and information from across the country that he loves to share with the Rock Chasing crew.

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