Most months of the year are associated with one birthstone. However, those born in October are fortunate enough to have two gemstones to commemorate their birth month: the opal and the tourmaline. And while both stones are exquisite, popular and make for great jewellery pieces, the two stones could not be more different from one another.
So what’s an opal, what’s a tourmaline, and more importantly – what’s the difference between the two? Read on for our guide to these glittering October birthstones.
What Are Opals?
Opals are one of the world’s most popular gemstones, and are one of the birthstones for the month of October. One of the most fascinating aspects of the opal is that it can flash every colour on the spectrum with a quality that surpasses a diamond.
The value of an opal depends on its body tone, play-of-colour, pattern, brilliance, colours and size. And where geography is concerned, over 95% of the world’s precious opals come from Australia – where the opal is the national gemstone.
History Of Opals
The earliest known opal artefacts date back to 4,000 B.C., and were discovered in a cave in Kenya by famous anthropologist Louis Leakey. History also indicates that the Aztecs were mining opals in South and Central America at the same time.
When it comes to opal jewellery and accessories, some of the world’s most influential figures were renowned for wearing opals. Cleopatra was presented with an opal ring by Mark Antony, natural philosopher Pliny owned one, and Queen Victoria was known to gift opals to her close family and friends.
What Are The Different Varieties Of Opals?
There are multiple varieties of opals found across the world. Three common varieties are fire opals; known for intense red and orange colours, boulder opals; which have an attached rock, and common opals; which are opaque and don’t show the play-of-colour typically found within a regular opal.
Some rarer opal varieties include the black opal; which is characterised by a dark body and often mined in New South Wales, the welo opal; an Ethiopian form which can produce rich colour, and the matrix opal; which displays a network of veins.
What Are Tourmalines?
The tourmaline is a semi-precious gemstone which comes in more colours than any other gemstone. The term tourmaline is derived from the Sinhalese word ‘turmali’, which means ‘mixed’ – and due to its wide range of colours, tourmalines are often mistaken for many other gemstones. In fact, the similarities of the tourmaline to gemstones such as rubies are so strong, that it is believed some of the Russian crown jewels that were believed to be rubies are actually tourmalines.
There are a wide range of quality factors when it comes to valuing tourmalines. This includes their colour (thanks to its characteristically diverse rainbow of colour intensity and tone), clarity, cut and carat weight.
History Of Tourmalines
The tourmaline gemstone was first discovered off the West Coast of Italy in the late 1600’s to early 1700’s. Tourmaline deposits were then found in California in the late 1800’s, and became known as an American gem through the efforts of geologist George F. Kunz.
Another big market of the tourmaline is China – in fact, the last Empress of the Ch’ing Dynasty was so passionate about tourmalines that she purchased huge quantities of it from California. As such, when the Chinese government collapsed in 1912, US tourmaline trade ceased.
What Are The Different Varieties Of Tourmalines?
There are several coloured varieties of the tourmaline gemstone. This includes the rubellite; popular for its intense red and pink hues, the indicolite; which is blue in hue and hard to uncover, the Paraiba tourmaline found in Brazil, the chrome tourmaline; displaying an intense green hue, and the watermelon tourmaline; a bi-coloured variety with different colours on the inside and outside.
How Did Opals And Tourmalines Become The Birthstones For October?
Scholars can trace the original calendar of gemstones back to the Breastplate of Aaron as described in the Bible’s book of Exodus. The Breastplate was adorned with gemstones that represented the tribes of Israel at the time – and based on this model, the modern birthstone list was created in 1912. It has since been defined by the National Association of Jewellers from the United States.
As well as representing the modern birthstone for October, the opal is also used to commemorate one’s 13th wedding anniversary. Conversely, the tourmaline is often given as an 8th wedding anniversary gift.
What Pieces Do Opals And Tourmalines Go Best With?
Opals are a very versatile gemstone, and often appear in a variety of jewellery settings. Examples of opal jewellery types include rings, pendants, necklaces, earrings and bracelets. But though they are popular jewellery settings, opals are also very delicate gemstones. When cleaning opal jewellery, steer clear of bleach, chemicals or artificial cleaners to ensure your opal maintains its clarity, quality and beauty.
As far as tourmalines are concerned, green tourmalines are the most common type of stones, and are believed to strengthen and protect the wearer. Tourmalines are predominantly set in pendants, necklaces, earrings, bracelets or rings. Tourmaline jewellery pieces can be cut and polished in a variety of ways, and are often used to create more ‘casual’ jewellery pieces. Bohemian-style jewellery including beaded necklaces, chunky bracelets and unique-shaped necklaces are popular settings for tourmaline gemstones. In terms of colour; red, green, blue and multi-coloured tourmaline stones are the most common colours utilised for jewellery setting.
Whether it’s a pair of opal earrings or a bohemian-style tourmaline pendant, look no further than the expert team at Perth’s Allgem Jewellers for your next piece of jewellery. Conveniently located in Hay Street Mall in the Perth CBD, Allgem’s wide range of gemstone jewellery pieces, including a range of stunning sapphire jewellery pieces, is sure to suit all design preferences. Contact our professional master jewellers or visit our showroom to take a look at our wide range of luxurious gemstone jewellery.