As we transform into the different shades of fantasy, October is a month of trying on different lives. (Hello, Halloween!) And with that sentiment, opal and tourmaline – October’s two birthstones – fit right in.
Both believed to be brought to Earth via a rainbow road of sorts, opal and tourmaline feature an array of enchanting colors. For tourmaline, the chemical makeup determines which colors will appear, while opals simply diffract light, showcasing multiple metallic hues. (Did you know that there are many types of opals?)
Throughout history, tourmaline has been mistaken for other colorful gemstones as it shade-shifts (green for emeralds, pink for rubies and so forth). And, it wasn’t until 1800 when it was finally recognized as its own mineral. The color has always played an important role though. Native Americans would give certain colors as funeral gifts, while pink tourmaline was cherished by Chinese Empress Dowager Cixi.
However, nowadays it can sometimes be tricky to find a deeply saturated, high quality tourmaline stone. Opal, on the other hand, has been rising in popularity over the years because of its kaleidoscope appearance.
In the Middle Ages, some thought the opal could take on the powers of all the stones it looked like. The ability to shade shift earned it the title of “Queen of Stones” by the Ancient Romans. But later on, in the 1800s, due to its negative portrayal in a historical fiction novel, opal got a bad rap and was thought to bring bad luck.
That’s since changed, and opal is thought to inspire people to love and be happy. Its vivid diffractions can be found throughout Ethiopia and Australia, and have more recently become a symbol of the “boho” lifestyle with a lighthearted and spirited vibe.
So, what should you know when purchasing either stone? Well, a the quality of a tourmaline is determined simply by its color, cut, and clarity – just like many other precious gems. However, there is more that goes into buying a high quality opal. Look carefully at the play-of-color as well as how its cut showcases the pattern. It’s also important to note the hardness, should you plan to wear it on a regular occasion. Tourmaline falls between 7 to 7.5 (diamonds have a hardness of 10) while opal is softer, ranging from 5 to 6.5.
But, whether you opt for the mystical tourmaline or ethereal opal, October’s birthstones are the ideal match for a month filled with mysticism and rich cultural history!
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