October Birthstones: Opal and Tourmaline
OPAL SYMBOLISM AND MEANING
Arabic legend attests that opals fell from the sky during lightning storms, while Australian aborigines thought the creator visited the earth in a rainbow and imparted opals as a colorful gift.
Nearly 100 B.C., a Roman scholar by the name of Pliny compared opal gemstones to volcanoes and colorful artwork, realizing that opals have the ability to reflect the hues of any gem. Because of these colorful reflective qualities, during the Middle Ages, it was thought that opals harnessed immense power and luck.
Throughout time, opals have been regarded as a gem full of good luck and fortune, especially for those with October birth months.
Opals have a primary color of either white or black, and many people find both appealing. The opal’s most defining quality is its kaleidoscope character that radiates all the colors of the rainbow. Microscopic silica, a crucial component to opal composition, diffracts light in a way that displays this colorful spectrum. Opals that contain microscopic silica are referred to as “precious opals,” and are usually found in Australia. Opals that don’t maintain this particular characteristic are considered “common opals.”
Along with the silica elements, opals are generally comprised of 6% to 10% water. As such, their Mohs scale rating is 5.5 to 6, making them less durable than other stones like rubies and diamonds. However, with extra care, such as avoiding extreme temperatures or direct sunlight, opals are exquisite gems that can be worn somewhat regularly or for special events.
Some records indicate that opal may have been discovered in parts of Northern Africa in 4000 B.C. Modern record shows that around 1850, a large deposit was uncovered in Australia. It remains the largest source of opal in the world.
This major opal deposit was formed by intense seasonal rains in Australia which soaked the ground, forcing silica deposits through the earth and down to the crevices in rock layers. After the water evaporated, the deposits formed opal.
Since the discovery in Australia, other opal deposits have been found in Ethiopia, Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, the Czech Republic, Nevada and Idaho. Natural, untreated opal is becoming more rare, as Australia’s deposit diminishes. Australia has accounted for over 90% of the precious opal supply in the world.
TOURMALINE: SECONDARY BIRTHSTONE
Tourmaline is a colorful alternative birthstone for those born in October, due to its complex composition of a multitude of minerals. Trace amounts of certain elements dictate the color of a tourmaline stone—and the selection is quite wide.
In ancient Egypt, it was believed that tourmaline passed through a rainbow as it emerged through the earth to the surface. The Sinhalese, or Sri Lankan, words “tura mali” are the root of the gemstone’s name, literally meaning the “stone of mixed colors.”
Though tourmaline left traces throughout history, the earliest records confirm that tourmaline was discovered in the 16th century in Brazil, though this wasn’t confirmed until the 19th century. Tourmaline deposits can now be found worldwide in countries like Australia, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Russia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Pakistan and the United States.
Over the centuries, tourmaline has been regarded as a symbol of power, protecting against toxins, pollutants and negative thoughts and emotions. It rates a 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making it a durable gem, fit for everyday wear.
- In 1956, the world’s largest and most valuable opal was found in Coober Pedy, Australia. It is named “Olympic Australis” in honor of the Melbourne Games that were occurring at the time. The 17,000 Carat gemstone is valued at over $2.5 million.
- Opal deposits have been found on the planet Mars, as it was uncovered by NASA in 2008 that a fallen meteorite from nearly a century before contained opal.
- Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom was an avid lover of opals. Among all of the royal gemstones, opal was her favorite.
- The Chinese found great value in tourmaline, so much that when the Chinese government suffered a collapse in 1912, tourmaline trade was affected worldwide.
The Opal was a symbol of and hope to the ancient Romans. The people of the Orient christened the Opal, ‘Anchor of Hope’. Others believed the Opal fell from the heavens when lightning struck the Earth. According to legend, the Opal was believed to make its wearer invisible and was a popular talisman of spies and thieves. The stone has a unique property in changing color, believed to indicate the health and mental state of the wearer. The October birthstone is associated with purity, innocence, hope and faith.
October has a second birthstone, the Tourmaline. Tourmalines are a relatively recent discovery and assignment. Due to its recent unveiling, the stone lacks an interesting background, lore, myths and legend. This gemstone however, is known as the ‘Peace Stone’, believing to dispel anger, fear, jealousy and aggressiveness to keep the wearer calm and tranquil. Besides peace and progress, the stone is believed to enhance creativity of its wearer.
The Aztecs had an affinity for the opal around 1200 to 1519 AD and used it as part of their rituals and especially for their mosaic work. Mexico still has the most noteworthy supply of fire opals hidden in their many extinct volcanoes. The Aztecs and Mayans dubbed the fire opals as quetzalitzlipyollitli, or the “stone of the bird of paradise” as it is often referred as. A bird of paradise has magnificent coloring and the name “stone of the bird of paradise” is a very apt name for this famed October birthstone.
The Tourmaline Group And Colors
There are a number of different varieties of crystal that make up the tourmaline group. Tourmaline is the second birthstone for the month of October. These crystals differ in color and are named as such. Achorite named from the Greek “without color” is colorless and quite rare then we have the Rubellite which is the reddish-pink variety with some exhibiting a violet hue. Dravite is yellow-brown, Verdelite is the green shades, Indigolite is the blue ones and Siberite is the lilac to violet blue. Schorl is the black stones commonly used during the morning then we have the chemical tourmalines named according to their chemical composition: Buergerite – iron tourmaline, Elbaite – lithium tourmaline, Dravite – magnesium tourmaline, Schὃrl – iron tourmaline, Tsilaisite – manganese tourmaline, Uvite – magnesium tourmaline and Liddiocoatite is the calcium tourmaline.
Tourmaline Is Unique
The uniqueness of the tourmaline has brought with it many legends. One of these legends is an Egyptian one and the belief is that while travelling to the earth’s surface, these stones passed over a rainbow causing them to absorb all the colors of the rainbow in the process. It is sometimes still referred to as the rainbow gemstone. The “watermelon” tourmaline is especially beautiful and unusual in that it has a red core, an inner layer of white then an outer layer of green giving the effect of the inside of a watermelon, hence the name. These crystals also vary in color tone with the uni-colored stones being the very rare ones. This uniqueness is loved by many jewelry designers making your choice of birthstone gift for October that much easier too.
The discovery of tourmaline came about when the Dutch first imported the tourmaline to Europe. It was known as the Ash-puller because the stone was heated and then used to pull ash out of their meerschaum pipes. Deposits are usually found in pegmatites and alluvial deposits. Brazil is the most important supplier of tourmaline while there are many other countries that now have also discovered tourmaline deposits such as Russia, India, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Zambia to mention but a few.
Spiritual And Symbolic Meanings
It is said that since the tourmaline comes in such a variety of colors, it is the gemstone that evokes joy, lightness and happiness. The specific colors enhance the qualities such as yellow represents self-esteem, green for health, pink for love and blue for serenity. The black stone is said to have a protective quality since the color black symbolizes unlimited power. The pink tourmaline might be one of the important October birthstone gifts you can give your loved one as well since it has the power to heal and open the heart.