October is one of the months with two birthstones -- opal and tourmaline -- and they’re related by a theme. If you have experience with these gemstones, it may surprise you to hear that there’s similarities, but when you peel away the veneer, you’ll notice it. Here at Jewelry Design Center, we revel in the beauty of these two stones and the gorgeous fashion pieces that take advantage of these exceptional treasures!
OpalOpal is a hydrated amorphous form of silica. This mouthful merely describes a stone that lacks a coherent internal structure (unlike most other gem-quality minerals) and features silicon dioxide “beads” clustered around trapped water molecules. This amorphous structure means that when light enters an opal, it hits the irregular surface of each SO2 bead and either reflects or refracts different colors, creating the jewel’s characteristic swirls of rainbow luminosity. As an amorphous gem, opal can sit anywhere between 5.5 to 6 on the Mohs scale. This makes it a very soft jewel—and while that’s a plus for designers looking to work with it, it also runs the risk of being damaged while being worn.
On a historical level, opal was extraordinarily rare in Europe, only being found in a small region of Slovakia. But for the Aboriginal Australians, the jewel was treasured as an inheritance from the Dreamtime. The Kamilaroi people tell the story of a butterfly goddess who lost the color from her wings in mountain snow, and where the melted colors landed, opals grew in the Earth. Today, someone who appreciates this mystic jewel can wear the color of butterfly wings any time they like!
TourmalineThe second birthstone for October is tourmaline, whose name comes from the Sinhalese word “thoramalli.” Tourmaline is, on a molecular level, a truly fascinating jewel. Tourmaline is one of nature’s most complex minerals, and its molecular structure allows for many different atom families to be exchanged for one another. This creates a stone that can occur in 33 known variations. For the jewel lover, this also means that tourmaline can be found in every color of the rainbow, as well as mysterious shades of black! The rarest tourmalines are the eminent Paraiba tourmaline, which comes in shades of electric green-blue; chrome tourmaline, which is a rich apple-green; and rubellite, which is a luminous pinkish red. However, one of the most popular variants today is “watermelon tourmaline,” which features clearly defined layers of green, clear, and pink.
Tourmaline doesn’t have a distinguished history of its own, because its beautiful colors have been mistaken for emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and many other gems! Still, it’s an ideal birthstone for October (as is opal) because of its nature of tricking ancient jewel lovers into thinking it was a different stone. Plus, for a month like October when the leaves change color and begin to fall, are there any jewels better for representing it than opal and tourmaline?