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All About the October Birthstones

Those born in October claim two gems to commemorate their birthdays — opal and tourmaline. Both October birthstones have endless color combinations and beautiful colors and characteristics. The name of the traditional October birthstone, opal, is believed to have originated in the first source of opals: India. In Sanskrit it was called upala, a “precious stone.”  When they were brought to ancient Rome, this became opalus.

Opals

Opals are valued for their dramatic play-of-color, with rainbow hues. The opal birthstone can be found all around the world: the fields of Australia are the most prolific spots for opals. Lightning Ridge, a small town in New South Wales, Australia, is famed for producing the prized black opals. A dry and rocky region, 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. Ethiopia, Mexico, and Brazil are also significant sources. Additional deposits have been found in Central Europe, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Peru, Turkey, and the United States. Querétero in Mexico is known especially for fire opal in yellow, orange, and reddish-orange to red, with good play-of-color!

Tourmaline

Tourmaline is the newer October birthstone. The name comes from the Sinhalese word toramalli, which means “stone with mixed colors,” because it often has multiple colors in one crystal. Ancient mystics believed this October birthstone could inspire artistic genius — it has a color palette for every mood, with a dazzling array of hues. The most popular colors 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 colors, 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. Scientists finally recognized tourmaline as a distinct mineral species in the 1800s. This October birthstone is typically found in Brazil but is also mined in Afghanistan, Kenya, and Mozambique. In the U.S., California and Maine are historically important producers of fine tourmaline.

Most of the tourmaline mined in Brazil comes from pegmatites in the state of Minas Gerais. Pegmatites are subterranean intrusions of magma that create a kaleidoscope of gem minerals. In the late 1980s, electric green and blue tourmalines entered the gem market from pegmatites in Brazil’s Paraíba State. The intense colors were caused by trace amounts of copper, which had never been recorded as a coloring agent in any tourmaline. Prices for the best Paraíba and Paraíba-type tourmalines easily surpass other tourmalines due to their vivid hues, higher color saturation, and greater rarity.

What do the October birthstones represent?

In addition to being the October birthstone, Opal is also the stone given to celebrate the 14th wedding anniversary. Writers have compared 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 prophecy 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 colored stones.

Different colors of tourmaline are thought to have their own healing properties. Black tourmaline is believed to protect the wearer and give a sense of self-confidence. Pink tourmaline embodies love and is associated with compassion and gentleness. Green tourmaline promotes courage, strength, and stamina. Tourmaline is given to celebrate the eighth wedding anniversary.

Lab-grown Opals

Lab-grown opals are mined gem alternatives, created under controlled and monitored conditions with cutting-edge technology. The process is started with a “seed” given by a natural opal and creates a gem with the same chemical, physical, and optical characteristics as a mined stone. They have the impurities and the same range of cut, clarity, color, and carat weight that you’d find among mined gems. Some of the more famous laboratory gemstones are sapphires and emeralds.

Diamond vs. Opal

Mined DiamondsLab Grown DiamondsOpal
Made from CarbonMade from CarbonMade from Silica
Mohs Hardness Level = 10Mohs Hardness Level = 10Mohs Hardness Level = 5.5-6.5
Refractive Index = 2.42Refractive Index = 2.42Refractive Index = 1.37-1.47

Which Should I Buy?

Trying to decide between gems or jewelry for yourself or a loved one? Here are the pros and cons for both diamonds and rubies!

The Pros of Lab-Grown Diamonds:

  • Incredibly high demand for diamonds
  • The hardest mineral, not prone to breaking or scratches
  • Ethically and sustainably sourced, so you’ll have a clear conscience!
  • Up to 40% less expensive than mined diamonds

The Cons of Lab-Grown Diamonds:

  • Lab-grown diamonds are so new and technologically advanced, and some do not understand that they are exactly the same as mined diamonds.

The Pros of Opal:

  • Colorful and unique, breaking from tradition
  • The October Birthstone, so it could be more significant and sentimental to those who were born in October
  • Most opals are lab-grown these days, which makes them ethically sourced!
  • Can be less expensive than diamonds, depending on the four C’s

The Cons of Opal:

  • Not as valuable or sought after as diamonds
  • Softer than diamonds; store it by itself to prevent gems from scratching your opal. Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds can all scratch the October birthstone.