What is my birthstone? - October
Opal and Tourmaline
Those born in October enjoy two spectacular birthstones to commemorate their birthdays – opal and tourmaline. Both October birthstones have endless colour combinations and beautiful colouring characteristics.
OPAL BIRTHSTONE MEANING & HISTORY
The name of this gem, the traditional October birthstone, is believed to have originated in India (the source of the first opals brought to the Western world), where in Sanskrit it was called upala, a “precious stone". In ancient Rome, this became opalus. Most opals are valued for their shifting colours in rainbow hues – a phenomenon known as “play-of-colour”.
The October birthstone’s dramatic play-of-colour has inspired writers to compare it to fireworks, galaxies and volcanoes. Bedouins once believed opal held lightning and fell from the sky during thunderstorms. Ancient Greeks thought opals bestowed the gift of prophesy and protection from disease. Europeans long maintained opal to be a symbol of purity, hope and truth. Hundreds of years ago, opal was believed to embody the virtues and powers of all coloured stones.
Opal is also the stone given to celebrate the 14th wedding anniversary.
WHERE IS OPAL FOUND?
Opal can be found in many places. The fields of Australia are the most productive source in the world for the October birthstone. Ethiopia, Mexico and Brazil are also important sources. Additional deposits have been found in Central Europe, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Peru, Turkey and the United States.
Lightning Ridge, a small town in New South Wales, Australia, is famed for producing prized black opal. A dry and rocky region softened only by small trees and scrub brush, Lightning Ridge gets little rain and bakes in the scorching summer temperatures. The climate is so unforgiving that miners often live underground to find respite from the punishing heat.
TOURMALINE BIRTHSTONE MEANING & HISTORY
Tourmaline is the newer October birthstone. The name comes from the Sinhalese word toramalli, which means “stone with mixed colours”, because it often has multiple colours in one crystal. Very few gems match tourmaline’s dazzling array of colours. Perhaps this is why ancient mystics believed that this October birthstone could inspire artistic expression – it has a colour palette for every mood. Among the most popular are the pink and red rubellites, the emerald green “chrome” tourmalines, and the neon green and blue-to-violet “paraíba” tourmalines.
Because of its vast range of colours, tourmaline was often mistaken for other gemstones. One of the “rubies” in the Russian crown jewels, the “Caesar’s Ruby” pendant, is actually red (rubellite) tourmaline. A Spanish conquistador found green tourmaline crystals in Brazil in the 1500s and confused the stones with emerald. These and other cases of mistaken identity continued for centuries until scientists recognised tourmaline as a distinct mineral species in the 1800s.