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The Jewelry Box Blog

October's Birthstones: Color Wonders of Opal and Tourmaline

on Oct 1, 2020 1:13 PM
What is October's birthstone?

In the Midwest, you’ll be hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t marvel at the wondrous colors of autumn.

We whole-heartedly admit to being a bit fanatic about our joy over the seasonal spectacle of fiery reds, burnt oranges and glimmering gold. And so, it makes sense that I’m equally enthusiastic about October's birthstones.

Mother Nature couldn’t have planned it better herself. Given the kaleidoscope of outdoor color this time of year, October birthstones are quite fitting.

On one hand you have the Opal, valued for its “shifting play” of color. On the other, there’s the Tourmaline, which comes in a rainbow of colors and combinations to suit your every mood. Both gems are lovely to wear and easy to acquire. Read on to learn more about October's birthstones.

Opal

Today, most opal can be found in Australia, Mexico and the United States.

Back in the day, opal was known to benefit eyesight and has been used for everything from easing childbirth to bringing strength in battle. Long known as the “Wish Stone,” it is supposed to promote love and romance and grant wishes and personal happiness.

The most common colors seen are green, blue, yellow and red. The ancient Romans respected and admired the opal because it encompasses colors of many other gems.

What we didn’t know is that it also comes in black, which is the rarest and most valuable of the gem collection.

Opal

And don't forget! Opal is the traditional gift for the 14th wedding anniversary.

Opal Peacock Brooch

While many pieces are handed down, others are preserved for the general public to enjoy. This Opal Peacock Brooch was designed by Harry Winston, Inc., and features a 32-carat black opal from Lightning Ridge, Australia.
 

 Opal Peacock Brooch

Opal Peacock Brooch (Photo courtesy: The Smithsonian)

The vivid blue and green play-of-color and a black body color make this beautiful opal rare and valuable. The piece is currently on display at the Smithsonian at the National Museum of Natural History. 

Tourmaline

You also have tourmaline as an option for an October birthstone. Like opal, tourmaline comes in a wide range of colors and sizes, ranging from dainty to huge, at virtually every price level.

During the 1700's when Dutch traders would trade gems from Sri Lanka, they called any unfamiliar stones by the Sinhalese name “turmali” meaning “stones with mixed colors.” So, any stone not recognized as a ruby or sapphire became a turmali.

Since then, science has helped distinguish those gems further, which included chrysoberyls, feldspars, zircons and the tourmaline gem.

Tourmaline is said to bring high energy, good luck, creativity and romance, depending on its color. 

Tourmaline

How to Clean Opal and Tourmaline

The best way to clean opal is with a soft damp or dry cloth. Make sure to avoid high heat or acid, as that could damage the gem. Also, opal is a soft gem, so it can scratch easily.

American Gem Trade Association says this about cleaning tourmaline: "When using commercially-made jewelry cleaner, coat the jewelry for a few minutes, then use a soft brush to dislodge accumulated grime. Let dry on a soft cloth and store. A gentle solution of warm water and gentle dish detergent also safely cleans tourmaline jewelry. Let the piece “sleep” overnight in a basin of water with a drop or two of detergent. In the morning, use a soft brush to clean the back of the stone, and its sparkle will return immediately. Take care to not leave tourmaline submerged longer than overnight, and avoid submerging beads, cloth, or cord."

Want to learn more about October's birthstones? Check out Gemological Institute of America's October birthstone guide!