October’s Birthstones – Did you know that those born in October have an option of two birthstones? It’s true. October babies can have their choice of opal or tourmaline. So why does October have two when other months only have one? The practice of wearing birthstones dates back hundreds of years ago, and their origin of the fashion is largely debated. But in an effort to standardize the birthstones, the National Association of Jewelers decided to create a list of accepted birthstones for each month in 1952. That last has since been tweaked over the years to reflect changes in styles and availability of stones on the market.
In October’s case, the opal was seen by many to be too feminine in appearance and there were questions about its durability. So the association decided to add tourmaline to the mix. More recently, it was decided that the October birthstones would be opal and pink tourmaline, specifically. So which one do you choose when picking out personalized jewelry? Take a closer look at each of these stones and see which one fits you.
Opal is a sensitive silica material that contains water. When the water exits an opal, the stone looks smaller and often shows slight cracks due to the stress of evaporation. Opals are created in volcanic rocks as well as cracks and cavities. They are known for their many colors that flash when the stone is moved. The majority of opals come from Australia — it’s the country’s national gemstone — especially the gorgeous black variety. Mexico is the home of the first fire opals, though wondrous fire opals can also be found in Nevada.
The word “opal” stems from “upala,” a Sanskrit word and the Latin word, “opalus,” which means “precious stone.” The opal stone is famous for its Indian legend — It is said that the gods turned a beautiful woman that they all clamored for into an opal that sparkled all the colors of a rainbow.
The ancient Romans viewed the opal as something that stands for hope and love. Orientals famously referred to the stone as the “anchor of hope.” Other cultures claim that opals fell from above during flashes of lightning. Some Arab cultures believed that the person who dons the opal stone is made invisible, and so they viewed the opal as a talisman of spies and thieves.
October’s other birth stone, tourmaline, is a gemstone that displays the widest spectrum of gemstone colors created by the presence of other metals. You can find tourmaline at Snow’s Jewelry and at museum exhibits. If you ask about the stone, you might hear about how the many beautiful colors manifest or the fact they require frequent cleanings due to the heat from the display lights generating a charge within the stone that attracts dust. Tourmaline is made with crystals and aggregations of oxygen, boron, aluminum, sodium, hydrogen and silicon atoms. Benjamin Franklin actually used tourmaline while studying electricity. It attracts lint, paper and ash when rubbed or warmed.
The tourmaline is a fairly recent discovery compared to other gemstones, so it doesn’t have comparable lore. Yet among some cultures, the tourmaline is referred to as the “peace stone” as it makes the one who holds it calm and fearless. The Russian Empress Catherine the Great once owned a tourmaline that was as large as a pigeon’s egg. The name of the stone stems from the Singhalese word “toramalli,” which was used to characterize green, yellow and brown stones. The word is meant to describe stones that are “little out of the earth.”