October Birthstones: Opal and Tourmaline

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October Birthstones: Opal and Tourmaline

Opal Symbolism and Meaning

Arabic legend attests that opals fell from the sky during lightning storms, while Australian aborigines thought the creator visited the earth in a rainbow and imparted opals as a colorful gift.

Nearly 100 B.C., a Roman scholar by the name of Pliny compared opal gemstones to volcanoes and colorful artwork, realizing that opals have the ability to reflect the hues of any gem. Because of these colorful reflective qualities, during the Middle Ages, it was thought that opals harnessed immense power and luck.

Throughout time, opals have been regarded as a gem full of good luck and fortune, especially for those with October birth months.

Opal Color

Opals have a primary color of either white or black, and many people find both appealing. The opal’s most defining quality is its kaleidoscope character that radiates all the colors of the rainbow. Microscopic silica, a crucial component to opal composition, diffracts light in a way that displays this colorful spectrum. Opals that contain microscopic silica are referred to as “precious opals,” and are usually found in Australia. Opals that don’t maintain this particular characteristic are considered “common opals.”

Along with the silica elements, opals are generally comprised of 6% to 10% water. As such, their Mohs scale rating is 5.5 to 6, making them less durable than other stones like rubies and diamonds. However, with extra care, such as avoiding extreme temperatures or direct sunlight, opals are exquisite gems that can be worn somewhat regularly or for special events.

Opal Origins

Some records indicate that opal may have been discovered in parts of Northern Africa in 4000 B.C. Modern record shows that around 1850, a large deposit was uncovered in Australia. It remains the largest source of opal in the world.

This major opal deposit was formed by intense seasonal rains in Australia which soaked the ground, forcing silica deposits through the earth and down to the crevices in rock layers. After the water evaporated, the deposits formed opal.

Since the discovery in Australia, other opal deposits have been found in Ethiopia, Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, the Czech Republic, Nevada and Idaho. Natural, untreated opal is becoming more rare, as Australia’s deposit diminishes. Australia has accounted for over 90% of the precious opal supply in the world.

Tourmaline: Secondary Birthstone

Tourmaline is a colorful alternative birthstone for those born in October, due to its complex composition of a multitude of minerals. Trace amounts of certain elements dictate the color of a tourmaline stone—and the selection is quite wide.

In ancient Egypt, it was believed that tourmaline passed through a rainbow as it emerged through the earth to the surface. The Sinhalese, or Sri Lankan, words “tura mali” are the root of the gemstone’s name, literally meaning the “stone of mixed colors.”

Though tourmaline left traces throughout history, the earliest records confirm that tourmaline was discovered in the 16th century in Brazil, though this wasn’t confirmed until the 19th century. Tourmaline deposits can now be found worldwide in countries like Australia, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Russia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Pakistan and the United States.

Over the centuries, tourmaline has been regarded as a symbol of power, protecting against toxins, pollutants and negative thoughts and emotions. It rates a 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making it a durable gem, fit for everyday wear.

Fun Facts

  • In 1956, the world’s largest and most valuable opal was found in Coober Pedy, Australia. It is named “Olympic Australis” in honor of the Melbourne Games that were occurring at the time. The 17,000 Carat gemstone is valued at over $2.5 million.
  • Opal deposits have been found on the planet Mars, as it was uncovered by NASA in 2008 that a fallen meteorite from nearly a century before contained opal.
  • Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom was an avid lover of opals. Among all of the royal gemstones, opal was her favorite.
  • The Chinese found great value in tourmaline, so much that when the Chinese government suffered a collapse in 1912, tourmaline trade was affected worldwide.

Gift Ideas

Due to the colorful spectrum of opals, the gemstone works well in collaboration with many varieties of jewelry and settings. Those born in October are lucky to have a birthstone that has a universal look along with an interesting history. Opals make stunning gifts for birthdays, anniversaries and other special celebrations.

For necklaces, consider a solitaire pendant like this or a charm pendant like this one from Blue Nile.

For earrings, choose a simple stud in 14K white gold, ones in a halo setting, or the more elaborate drop earring design.

For rings, opals can be placed in a simple setting like this Cushion Cut or one that’s surrounded by diamonds like this.

If you’re hoping for the tourmaline alternative, there are pink gemstone options like the one in this ring or the light turquoise one in this design.

Choosing and designing an October birthstone piece will be a cherished gift this year, and all the years to come.

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