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October Birthstone: Everything You Need to Know

by Alexandra Wolf
Last updated on August 21, 2023

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

This post is meant to be educational. Clean Origin does not carry opals or tourmaline, just lab grown diamond jewelry.

First Traditional October Birthstone: Opal

The name opal, the traditional October birthstone, may originate from 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 stones are the most common of the October birthstones. Many find value in its dramatic play of color and rainbow hues. Opal birthstone jewelry makes for great gifts since this stone is so versatile. Be wary as the stone is brittle if you are buying jewelry for everyday wear.

Opals Exhibit Many Colors. October birthstone.
Opals Display 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 lack of structured crystal, opal is not quite a mineral; instead, it’s a mineraloid. Still, many scientific references classify opal as a mineral.

You may have heard of black opal stones. This example of the beautiful 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 often cut in an oval and looks stunning in contrast with white gold.

Where Are Opals Found?

You can find precious opals around the world: 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. In fact, the climate in Lightning Ridge is so unforgiving that miners often live underground. They do this to find respite from the punishing heat.

Australia is also known to produce boulder opal. Found mainly in Queensland, boulder opal forms in the cracks and spaces in sandstone. This type of opal is considered rare among precious stones.

Ethiopia, Mexico, and Brazil are also important sources. Additional opal deposits are in Central Europe, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Peru, Turkey, and even the United States. Querétero in Mexico is known primarily for fire opal in yellow, orange, as well as reddish-orange to red, with good play-of-color and fire! Fire opal is also known as “Mexican Opal” and “Mexican Fire Opal.”

Why Did the October Birthstone Change?

Opal held 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, the opal lost 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 Birthstone

Brazilian Tourmaline. October birthstone.
Brazilian Tourmaline

Tourmaline is the newer of the two October birthstones. The word tourmaline 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 rainbow colors.

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.

Many mistake the beautiful tourmaline stone 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 Paraiba 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 tourmaline and Paraíba-type tourmalines surpass other tourmalines. This is 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 (although tourmalines can be found in igneous and metamorphic rocks as well) 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 paraiba tourmaline entered the gem market from pegmatites in Brazil’s Paraíba State.

What Do the October Birthstones Represent?

In addition to being October’s traditional 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 thought 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.

These rainbow colored gems have a diverse array of healing properties associated with them.

Black Tourmaline
Black Tourmaline. October birthstone.
Example of Black Tourmaline

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

Pink Tourmaline

The pink tourmaline stone embodies love, and people associate it with compassion and gentleness.

Green Tourmaline
Green Tourmaline
An Example of Green Tourmaline

Tourmaline that is green promotes courage, strength, and stamina.

What About 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. The opal seed then grows until it becomes a gem with the same chemical, physical, and optical characteristics as most gemstones mined from the earth.

Lab created opals have the impurities and the same range of cut, clarity, color, and carat weight of mined gems. Some of the more famous lab gems are sapphires and emeralds.

Diamond vs. Opal

Mined DiamondsLab Grown DiamondsOpal
Made FromCarbonCarbonSilica
Mohs Hardness Level10105.5-6.5
Refractive Index2.422.421.37-1.47

Which Should I Buy?

There are many pros to choosing lab grown diamonds.
There are many pros to choosing lab grown diamonds.

Are you trying to decide between gems or jewelry for yourself or a loved one? Perhaps you’re thinking about adding this October birthstone to your jewelry wardrobe. Or maybe you can’t decide between an opal gemstone or diamond ring. Here are the pros and cons for both a diamond ring and opal ring!

The Pros of Lab Grown 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 have more sentimental value to October babies
  • Most opals are lab grown these days, which makes them ethically sourced!
  • It can be less expensive than diamonds (especially if you buy opal doublets or triplets), 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. 

If you still can’t decide between diamonds and opals, why not choose an opal with diamond accents?

Opal and Tourmaline: Two Stunning Gemstones

Anyone born in October can enjoy both an opal and tourmaline birthstone. Both versions 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 can inspire artistic expression, it is clear that those born in October enjoy a diverse and stunning selection of birthstones for fine jewelry.

Learn new things about birthstone jewelry, specifically November birthstone here.