The Birthstone of October: Opals and Tourmalines
There’s much to celebrate in the month of October, especially for those October babies having two birthstones! The birthstones of September are Opals and Tourmalines, which happen to represent both passion and compassion, respectively. October is one of the months that has two birthstones for its modern and traditional representations. Continue to learn more about the symbolism, history, and features about the Opal and Tourmaline gemstones!
Why does October have two birthstones?
Throughout history, October was only associated to two different birthstones, Opals and Tourmalines. The months of the year differ in the amounts of birthstones that they have, some having only one birthstone, and others even having up to three gemstones associated to its respective month.
There are different numbers of birthstones per month as there are the associated gemstones that are classified as either modern or traditional. The more common of the two types are modern birthstones, which were officially named by the Jewelers of America in the 1950’s. Traditional birthstones are the gemstones that were more commonly associated with its respective month in the early 20th century and even beyond. Many of these traditional birthstones have become too rare and are not as available on the market in this day and age, and therefore some months have modern birthstones that differ from its traditional associations.
Features of Opals
The traditional birthstone for the month of October is the Opal. The origin of the name “opal” comes from the Sanskrit Upala meaning “jewel” or “precious stone.” The Greek Opallios was also defined as “to see a color change” and in Ancient Rome, Opalus.
This gemstone name came into use during the late Victorian era.
This multi-colored gemstone is best known and valued due to its ability to shift different colors of rainbow hues, which is also a phenomenon coined “play-of-color.” Opals are created when silica deposits in water go into cracks and opening within layers of rock formations. The silica is left behind when the water is evaporated, therefore solidifying the compounds of silicon and oxygen. These deposits are what form into what we know as the opal gemstones with its many different colors.
A single opal gemstone can flash every color of the spectrum.
There are many categories of Opals: Black Opal, Semi Black Opal, Boulder Opal, White Opal, Jelly Opal, and Mexican Fire Opal to name a few. The categories listed below are some of the most well known and most frequently used opals in jewelry manufacturing.
- Black Opal describes opals with a dark grey to black body tone. These opals tend to be more valuable since the darker body tones cause the colors to be more vibrant.
- Boulder Opal describes opals with a natural brown ironstone backing that is attached to the stone. These opals also have a dark body tone, and are considered the second most valuable opals.
- White Opal describes opals with a white to light body tone. These opals tend to be less valuable since they usually do not have the vibrant colors. When these opals have little color, they are sometimes called milky opals.
Here are just a few examples of the amazing colors that can be found in opals:
Opal Doublets and Triplets
There are two types of processes in which are sometimes used in the manufacturing of opal jewelry.
- Opal doublets consist of two layers adhered together with glue. A black backing which is usually made of black glass, black potch, or brown ironstone to name a few, and a thin layer of opal. The dark backing enhances the colors in the opal.
- Opal triplets are thinly cut pieces of opal that have a dark backing as previously described above, but also have a clear top which is often domed. While the clear top protects the opal, overall triplets are generally valued much lower.
The History and Symbolism of Opals
Now let’s talk about the history of Opals! Some of the oldest opal artifacts have been discovered in East Africa, being at least several thousands of years old. These opal artifacts dating back to around 4000 BC were most likely from Ethiopia, and gained value amongst other gemstones like diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires as they were continuously mined.
The Ancient Romans also prized opals as early as 250 BC and were believed to have originated from the Eastern Europe mines, which is where most of the world’s opals came from during those ancient times.
Opal gemstones can be found all over the world, however, since the late 1800’s, Australia has dominated the opal mining industry, producing at least 90% of the world’s precious opals. Other opal producing countries include the United States, Mexico, Hungary, Indonesia, Brazil, Peru, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Ethiopia.
Due to the many colors that the opal gemstone displays, opals were believed to possess powers and positives benefits from different cultures. Generally, the opal was believed to be a symbol promoting romance, passion, hope, purity, and truth.
- The Ancient Romans thought of this stone as a symbol of love, earning the name of the “Cupid Stone,” being the most precious and powerful.
- On the other hand, Ancient Greeks believed that the opal held the gift of prophecy to see into the future, as well as protection from diseases at the time.
- Whereas in Nomadic Arab tribes, they believed the opal came to Earth through thunderstorms and was also believed to hold lightning within the stone itself.
- In other cultures, the shimmering and colorful array led many to believe that the stone held the power of invisibility for those who wore it, and could even promote the health of the eyes.
With the opal being the gemstone associated with the 14th wedding anniversaries, this stone of hope and romance is a great gift for those celebrating those milestones as well as an October birthday!
Maintaining and Caring for Your Opals
Opals have a hardness of about 5.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This makes opals a type of gemstone that requires special handling and cleaning.
To put this in perspective, quartz has a hardness of 7 – 7.5 and are present in the particles of dust seen floating in the air and settling on uncleaned objects in your home. These particles have the hardness that is able to remove the polish from your table and the finish from your car. Diamonds have a hardness of 10, which is the hardest gemstone, and the softest includes talc, which is a gemstone that even your fingernail can scratch. These minerals can only be scratched by the hardness level above it, so opal jewelry owners should wear your opals with caution.
Your precious gemstones still deserve care and maintenance to keep it looking as sparkly and pristine as possible.
Solid opal should be cleaned gently with mild detergent in warm water and a soft toothbrush or cloth. Avoid bleach, chemical, and cleaners when touching up your jewelry at home. Doublets & triplets may be wiped with a damp soft cloth and mild detergent, however, they should never be soaked or immersed. Make sure to store your opals away from other jewelry to help prevent them from being scratched. Protect them from high heat since this can dry out the opal which has a high-water content and can cause it to crack.
To learn more about our professional gemstone services, such as a professional clean and polish, feel free to check out a Gemstone Services.
Features of Tourmalines
The modern birthstone for the month of October is the Tourmaline.
The name of the gemstone “Tourmaline” comes from the Sinhalese word “turmali” from Sri Lanka, which means mixed and unidentified stones of different colors. There have been many different names for this gemstone of a large variety, including the name “schorl.”
Tourmaline is considered to be within a group of many different types of pyroelectric minerals, having the largest range of colors within the mineral kingdom. There are many different colors in which these tourmaline gemstones are formed, which is due to its substitution of transition elements for other different metallic elements within its crystal structure. For example, pink tourmaline is due to the presence of manganese elements. With enough heat, there can be a change of vibrancy in the stones color.
With enough electrical charge through heat and pressure, tourmaline can become an oscillating magnet for dust particles.
The gemstone tourmaline is considered to be a “semi-precious” stone with a gorgeous array of colors, found in other rocks such as marble and schist. The names of these many different colors include: , schorl (black), elbaite (multi-colored), dravite (brown), liddicoatite (prismatic pink and green), rubellite (pink and red), indicolite (blue), siberite (purple), watermelon (pink and green), and many more, with the first four being the most common varieties. The most expensive type of tourmaline is the rarest of them call, which is the Paraiba tourmaline, coming in a bright neon-blue color.
The History and Symbolism of Tourmalines
The history of the tourmaline gemstone initially starts when they are first discovered on the Isle of Elba in the beginning of the 18th century. They were then started to be mined commercially in Australia in the mid-19th century as the country was the most productive and abundant source of the tourmaline gemstone. There are other mines and sources of tourmaline that can be found in the United States, Central Europe, Indonesia, and Honduras.
It was believed that the first sign that the tourmaline gemstone was a pyroelectric stone was during the early 18th century when there were children playing with the stone in the sun and it was visibly seen that there were particles of dust and ash being attracted in the air. However, it took about 100 years to conclude that all of these pyroelectric gemstones were all different varieties of the same gemstone, which is the one and only tourmaline.
Tourmaline also has a history of being mistaken for other gemstones such as rubies and emeralds as they do come in a wide variety of shapes and colors. One of the rubies in the Russian crown jewels, the “Caesar’s Ruby” pendant, is actually a rubellite.
Tourmalines are most known to symbolize creativity, wisdom, insight, and voice, also being coined to inspire artistic expression having a color for every mood and emotion. The tourmaline gemstones that possess a blue color also are the symbol of calmness, stability, and serenity.
Each of the different colors of tourmaline is thought to have their own sort of powers and healing properties. For example, black tourmaline hold protection for the wearer with a sense of self-confidence, however, green tourmaline promote stamina, strength, and courage. If one owns a pink tourmaline, their gem will be embodying love, compassion, and gentleness.
With the tourmaline being the gemstone associated with the 8th year of wedding anniversaries, this stone of creativity and wisdom is also alternatively a great gift for those celebrating those milestones as well as an October birthday!
Maintaining and Caring for Your Tourmalines
Tourmalines have a hardness of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This means that the tourmaline gemstone is generally harder than most opal gemstones. As previously stated, minerals can only be scratched by the hardness level above it.
Tourmaline owners should store and wear their tourmaline gemstone jewelry with caution, as they can still be scratched with many other gemstone jewelry. Your precious tourmalines deserve the care and maintenance to keep it as pristine as possible, so it is recommended to keep them away from heat, as it may be damaging to the gemstone itself. However, these gems are generally able to withstand light damage and most chemicals.
At home, it is recommended to be cleaned with warm, soapy water and a toothbrush with soft bristles or a soft cloth, just like opals. Unfortunately, it is not so safe to clean your tourmaline jewelry with ultrasonic cleaners or steam cleaners.
To learn more about our professional cleaning and polishing services, visit our Clean & Polish Services page for more information.
Replacing Your Missing Opal or Tourmaline
Thinking about restoring a loved one’s sentimental birthstone piece? You’re in the right place to restore their precious memories.
Gemstones provide life and brilliance to any piece of jewelry, yet have the highest potential to damage. Whether it be a loose, lost, or scratched-up Sapphire, we take restoring the life of your treasures seriously. Any gem, any damage, we’ll make your jewelry sparkle as bright as the day you got it.
We have a team of specialists in place to properly source every type of gem needed for your treasured item. We understand your gemstones are unique and require specific attention. Our Professional Stone Sourcing team makes sure that all of your gems, even the ones that sometimes go unnoticed, are replaced by stones of the right caliber for your piece.
Visit our Gemstone Replacement Services page to learn more about restoring the brilliance of your Sapphire.
The Ultimate Birthstone Guide
“If you were born in October, your month’s birthstones are Opal and Tourmaline.
If you didn’t already know, there are some months that have multiple birthstones, whereas some only have one. Traditional birthstones are gemstones that were most commonly associated with its respective month in the early 20th century and even beyond, with Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers associating these gemstones with the star signs. Those that are more commonly known in this day and age are the modern birthstones, which were officially named by the Jewelers of America in the 1950’s.
If you would like to learn more about birthstones in general, visit our Ultimate Birthstone Guide!“
Clean & Polish Services
“A basic clean, polish, and inspection is part of the routine care and maintenance needed to keep your jewelry looking like new. The inspection process includes looking for loose stones, bent prongs, and any damage to the metal or stones that need to be repaired.”
Stone Setting Repair
“A stone setting repair can be a simple re-tipping of a worn prong (which is considered routine care and maintenance) or the complete rebuilding/replacing of a damaged prong. In the case of severe damage, the entire head of the ring may need to be replaced.
Regardless of whether or not the prongs are compromised due to normal wear and tear or a result of accidental damage, we can provide the routine care and maintenance in order to ensure you do not lose a stone in your setting.”
Gemstone Replacement Services
“The process of a Gemstone Replacement is simple enough, yet requires trained eyes to be able to make a flawless switch. We aim to leave no trace of our work, which means not only will your setting be perfected, but the gemstone we choose will complete your jewelry piece effortlessly.”
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