Opal and Tourmaline: The October Birthstones
As summer fades, autumn gives rise to fiery foliage that colors the landscape with eye-popping hues. This beauty is reflected in October’s two birthstones, opal and tourmaline. Read on to learn more about these two lovely gemstones and find out how you can capture their essence in stunning fine jewelry pieces.
What Are They?
The primary birthstone of October, Opal is a species of quartz that’s known for its unique display of flickering rainbow colors. October's second birthstone, tourmaline is a crystalline boron silicate mineral mixed with elements such as iron, aluminum, magnesium, lithium, sodium or potassium. While it can yield lovely jewelry pieces, the colorful gemstone is much less popular than opal. Many consider it an afterthought when choosing October birthstones for fine jewelry. For this reason, we’ll keep the focus of this piece on opals, one of the most uniquely compelling gemstones in all the world.
A Stone from Down Under
Opals can be found in many places all over the world, including Kenya, Mexico, Czechoslovakia, Honduras, Brazil, Peru, Canada and the USA. In reality, however, 95% of the world's precious opal comes from the country and continent of Australia, which has embraced the opal as its official national gemstone.
Opal is the product of ancient seasonal rains that once drenched the dry ground in such regions as Australia’s famous "outback." The rainfall coated the soil and breached deep into the underlying rock, carrying with it dissolved silica, a combination of silicon and oxygen. During arid periods, most of the region’s water evaporated, leaving behind deposits of solidified silica amid layers of subterranean sedimentary rock. These deposits ultimately became opal over time.
When Australia began commercially mining opals in the 1890s, the nation rapidly became the planet's top source for the gemstones. These days, if you get a jewelry piece with an opal gemstone, it likely came from the other side of the world.
A Color Like No Other
Known for their iridescent, luminous characteristics, opals have been used in all sorts of jewelry pieces for centuries. The semi-precious stone’s famous play-of-color occurs because it is made of sub-microscopic spheroids stacked in a grid-like pattern. Imagine, if you will, layers of Ping-Pong balls packed within a box. This is very much how opals would appear on a microscopic level. As light bounces around between the spheres, the waves diffract and radiate spectral colors which look like varying hues of the rainbow.
October’s birthstone has long been valued as a stone of luck and magic, mostly due to its flashes of eye-catching rainbow colors. Since the stone has all the different colors of every other gem, the ancient Romans believed it to be the most precious and powerful stone. The ancient Bedouins also endowed opals with magical properties, believing that they held lightning and plummeted to earth during powerful thunderstorms.
Can I Wear Opals Every Day?
While they are exceptionally beautiful, opals aren’t the strongest of gems; with a Mohs scale rating of 5.5 to 6.5, these stones are susceptible to scratching and cracking. Given their Mohs rating, it is generally best to save your opal jewelry for big moments and special occasions.
Since a lot of opals have a high water content, they can also dry out and crack over time if you don’t care for them properly. Ideally, you should store your opals in damp cotton wool and wash them with warm, soapy water. Some opals are treated with resin, oil or wax to enhance their finish. Still, it’s almost always best to use plain dish soap and water to wash these stones. With all that said, if you properly care for your opal jewelry, it can last for decades.
Distinctively Beautiful Birthstone Jewelry
Prized for their unique and exceptional beauty, opals are available in a wide array of jewelry pieces. Bear in mind that John hand-selects the gemstones and creates a one-of-a-kind design around it. While you may not be able to get one of the opal pieces featured in this article; our team can help you choose a breathtaking piece that suits your preferences and style.
At John Atencio, we offer a compelling collection of opal gemstones that beautifully complement our artfully crafted jewelry pieces. We also offer an intriguing selection of breathtaking pieces featuring other colorful birthstones, including sapphires, rubies, emeralds and more. Visit one of our convenient locations and let our courteous and knowledgeable jewelry experts guide you to the perfect jewelry piece for yourself or that special person on your shopping list.