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October Birthstone: Everything You Need to Know

by Alexandra Wolf
Last updated on October 20, 2022

Those born in October claim two spectacular birthstones to commemorate their birthdays — opal and tourmaline. Both October birthstones have endless color combinations and beautiful colors and characteristics. Whether you like to think of opal or tourmaline as the true October birthstone, very few gems offer the beauty and diversity of these two.

First October Birthstone: Opal

The name opal, the traditional October birthstone, 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.

Opal is the most common of the October birthstones. Many find value in its dramatic play of color and rainbow hues. Opal birthstone jewelry makes for fantastic gifts since this stone is so versatile. Be wary as the stone is pretty brittle if you are buying jewelry for everyday wear.

Opals exhibit many colors.

What Makes Opals Unique?

Opals are unique in that they lack a crystal structure, which is generally accepted as scientific criteria for defining a mineral. Because of this, they are not precisely a mineral but instead a mineraloid. Still, many scientific references classify opal as a mineral.

You may have heard of black opal. This expression of the October birthstone is the most valuable. The black opal contains iron oxide that gives it that lovely dark hue. Black opals can range in color from grey to dark black. This version of the opal is ofter cut in an oval and looks stunning in contrast with white gold.

Where Are Opals Found?

You can find the opal stone worldwide: the fields of Australia are the most prolific spots for this October birthstone.

Lightning Ridge, a small town in New South Wales, Australia, is famed for producing the prized black opal. 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 are in Central Europe, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Peru, Turkey, and the United States. Querétero in Mexico is known primarily for fire opal in yellow, orange, and reddish-orange to red, with good play-of-color and fire!

Why Did the October Birthstone Change?

Opal held the center stage as the gem revered as the October birthstone until 1912. What happened that year, you may ask?

Well, the National Association of Jewelers updated the birthstone list to be more modern. These updates only included transparent gems. And thus, opal relinquished its crown as October’s birthstone.

Many took superstitious stances surrounding this change. Some even still believe opal to be bad luck to this day. However, these beliefs have no evidence to support them.

Tourmaline

Brazilian Tourmaline

Tourmaline is the newer of the two October birthstones. 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.

Dynamic Colors of the Newer October Birthstone

The most popular colors for these gems are the pink and red rubellites, the emerald green “chrome” tourmalines, and the neon green and blue-to-violet “paraíba” tourmalines.

The beautiful tourmaline stone gets mistaken for other gemstones because of its vast range of colors. One of the “rubies” in the Russian crown jewels, the “Caesar’s Ruby” pendant, is actually red (rubellite) tourmaline.

Where Does Tourmaline Get Its Color?

The intense colors come from 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.

Where Does Tourmaline Come From?

Scientists finally recognized tourmaline as a distinct mineral species in the 1800s. The tourmaline 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. As more and more people seek out this beautiful modern birthstone, tourmaline mining became quite a business.

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.

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.

Whether worn as a ring set in white gold or as a bracelet in tiny spheres, opal jewelry is going to impress.

Some October Birthstone History and Meaning

Meanings of Opal

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 embodied the virtues and powers of all colored stones.

Meanings of Tourmaline

Tourmaline is the traditional gift to celebrate the eighth wedding anniversary.

Different colors of tourmaline have a diverse array of healing properties associated with them.

Black Tourmaline
Black Tourmaline

Some believe that wearing black tourmaline can protect the wearer and give a sense of self-confidence.

Pink Tourmaline
Rubellite

The pink tourmaline stone embodies love and is associated with compassion and gentleness.

Green Tourmaline

Green Tourmaline promotes courage, strength, and stamina.

Lab Grown Opals

Lab grown opals are alternatives to mined gems 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.

Lab created opals 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?

There are many pros to choosing lab grown diamonds

Are you trying to decide between gems or jewelry for yourself or a loved one? Are you thinking about incorporating this October birthstone into your jewelry wardrobe? Here are the pros and cons for both diamonds and opals!

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!
  • It 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. 

Opal and Tourmaline: Two Stunning Gemstones

Anyone born in October enjoys two birthstones. Both expressions of October’s birthstone, opal, and tourmaline, are beautiful enough to inspire artistic creation. With the variety of beautiful colors in these two versions of the October birthstone, you have every opportunity to design truly unique jewelry. It is an understatement to say that either of October’s birthstones could be the most modern birthstone.

Whether you choose to believe that opals brought healing powers or tourmaline artistic expression, it is clear that those born in October enjoy a diverse and stunning selection of birthstones.

Discover new things about November birthstones, here.