October Birthstone- Opal and Tourmaline

October Birthstone- Opal and Tourmaline

October babies are some of the lucky ones who also get two different birthstones, opal and/or tourmaline. Let’s start out with some opal facts! 

Opal is a very, very cool gem, and like most gems, no two opals are the same. The flashes of color that make opal what it is are caused by light interacting with the silica spheres that are arranged inside of the gem. The way these spheres are arranged is pretty cool, think of filling a shoe box with a bunch of ping-pong balls and then putting water in the spaces in between the ping pong balls.

There are quite a few different types of opal which include: black opal, white opal, crystal opal, water opal, boulder opal, fire opal, and assembled opal. Out of these, black opal brings in the top prices. The most desirable flashes of color in opal are of red-orange and red colors.

Most opal comes from Australia, but it can also be found in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, and Ethiopia. There are many opal treatments and simulants on the market, lab created opal is very common. There are other techniques called sugaring or smoking to cause the base color (the backround) to become darker, essentially turning a piece of white opal into black opal.

Opals do require special care due to their makeup and softness, never put an opal in an ultrasonic or steam it. Some opals are incredibly porous and will absorb water, lotions, soaps, etc. which can alter the appearance of the stone. Your retailer should inform you of this when buying. Do not leave opals in a safety deposit box or a very, very dry space, this will cause the water to evaporate and cause crazing, which means little tiny cracks throughout the stone leading to durability issues.

The Basics:

  • Mohs Scale: 5.0-6.5
  • Mineral: Hydrated Silica
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Fun Facts:

  • In ancient Rome opal is said to symbolize love and hope
  • It is believed that opal deposits were formed 15-30 MlLLION years ago
  • Opal contains between 3-20% of water
  • The superstition that opal causes bad luck if you wear it and aren’t an October baby comes from the book Anne of Geierstein written by Sir Walter Scott.
  • Despite superstitions, opal is actually regarded as one of the luckiest gemstones

Photo: GIA.edu

Tourmaline

Tourmaline is one of my top 3 favorite gemstones! The variety it offers and the vibrant, natural colors it produces makes it an absolutely breathtaking gem. The stone is relatively hard and resists chemicals well, so it is suited for everyday wear, but you do need to be careful with it.

Tourmaline comes in a wide variety of colors and sometimes even more than one color in a single stone! The most popular colors are: red-pink (known as rubellite), neon blues and greens (paraíba), green outside and pink inside (watermelon), some blue tourmaline is called indicolite, and greens are called chrome. Because tourmalines grow in long crystals, a lot of tourmaline on the market is cut into rectangles, or other elongated shapes that show the stone's color best.

Tourmaline is found predominately in Brazil, but other sources such as Mozambique, Nigeria, and the United States are also important.

Tourmalines are sometimes treated, however the treatment is undetectable and stable. The most common treatments of tourmaline are heating and irradiation. Heating usually just enhances the color and does not actually change the hue of the stone.

The Basics:

  • Mohs Scale: 7-7.5
  • Mineral: Tourmaline
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Fun Facts:

  • Tourmaline becomes electrically charged when heated
  • When tourmaline was originally found, it was mistaken for emerald. It took hundreds of years to correct the mistake

Photo: GIA.edu