October is a lucky month for people who love variety… it has two birthstones, Tourmaline and Opal!
Tourmaline is a fascinating gemstone that can come in almost any color—or mixture of colors! It is a boron silicate crystal mix. Strong pink-to-red tourmaline (also known as Rubellite) is the traditional present for October birthdays, but tourmaline can also come in vivid greens, pinks, electric blues and blacks. Tourmaline gems that show both pink and green hues are called Watermelon Tourmaline. The rarest and most prized tourmaline is Paraíba, a copper-bearing gem found in Brazil that comes in intense shades of violet-blue and blue-green.
Tourmalines form in volcanic gas pockets known as Pegmatites. If you’re in the San Diego area, there are mines you can visit! The Pala and Oceanview mines are open to the public.
WHERE ARE TOURMALINES FOUND?
Tourmalines are most plentiful in Brazil, but they are also found in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya, Madagascar and Mozambique. California (San Diego in particular) and Maine are historically important producers of fine tourmaline in the United States.
TOURMALINE MEANING & ANCIENT LORE
- Some tourmaline is piezoelectric—that is, it will become electrically charged when pressure is applied. Tourmaline has been used to make the pressure gauges for submarines!
- Tourmalines are believed to increase understanding and empathy, and ward off negative energy and emotion.
- The last empress of the Chi’ing Dynasty in China was a passionate collector of tourmaline (especially vivid pinks and magentas); upon her death, she was laid to rest on a tourmaline pillow.
Opal is a gemstone formed of silica and water. Did you know that the average opal is between ten and twenty percent water? Classic opals display a unique phenomenon called play-of-color—the sparks and flashes of rainbow colors seen as you tilt an opal at different angles. The most valuable and prized opals come from Lightning Ridge, Australia. These opals have large, vivid flashes of color against a very dark grey, black or blue background.
WHERE ARE OPALS FOUND?
Most of the world’s opals come from Australia but Ethiopia, Mexico and Brazil are also important sources. Opals have also been found in Central Europe, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Peru, Turkey and the United States.
Opal MEANING & ANCIENT LORE
- In Medieval times, blonde women wore necklaces of opal to prevent their hair from fading or turning grey.
- Opal has been called “The Patron of Thieves” because it was believed to have the power to make its wearer invisible.
- The name “opal” is derived from the Ancient Greek “opallios” meaning to see a change of color.
- Opals are the traditional gift for a 14th wedding anniversary.
BUYER’S GUIDE: TOURMALINE
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: COLOR
Tourmaline, like most gemstones, is priced based on the intensity and desirability of its color. Black, opaque tourmaline (also known as Schorl) is the most common; intense blue and blue-green stones are the rarest. Tourmaline is also perfect if you like color combinations, with bicolor and tricolor gems that are cut to show both colors.
Tourmalines are easy to clean on your own, but, as with any gemstone, be sure to handle it with care. Tourmaline should be cleaned once every 6 months.
If you’d like to do it at home, simply mix lukewarm water with a little mild soap, and use a soft bristle brush to clean the stone. After cleaning, dry with a soft cloth. For deeper cleaning, allow the piece to soak for 10 to 20 minutes, and then follow the remaining steps of the above procedure.
BUYER’S GUIDE: OPAL
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: COLOR
Opals are priced based on the intensity, variety and size of the colored flashes in their crystal structure.
When buying opal, be careful – your piece could be a doublet, where a thin slice of opal is glued to a black ironstone background, or a triplet, where the opal is sandwiched between an ironstone back and a clear, rounded cap of quartz, glass or plastic. These pieces can have a great look, but are worth much less than solid opal.
Be careful when storing your opals! If you keep them in a metal container (such as a safe or safety deposit box) the stones can dry out and craze—the term for a web of small, shallow cracks that opals develop if they dehydrate. For this reason, we recommend a professional cleaning every six months.
Source: GIA (Gemological Institute of America)