The name of this gem, the traditional October birthstone, is believed to have originated in India where in Sanskrit it was called upala, or “precious stone".
Most opals are valued for their shifting rainbow hue of colours - a phenomenon known as “play-of-colour”.
This dramatic play-of-colour gemstone has inspired writers to compare Opals to fireworks, galaxies and even volcanoes. Civilisations throughout history have bestowed magical properties and mystical powers onto the creation of opals from the Bedouins who believed opals held lightning and fell from the sky during thunderstorms to the Ancient Greeks who thought opals bestowed the gift of prophesy and protection from disease. Even today, people still maintain opals to be a symbol of purity, hope and truth.
Opal is also the stone given to celebrate the 14th wedding anniversary.
WHERE ARE OPALS FOUND?
Opal can be found in many places, the most valuable opals come from Queensland and New South Wales in Australia, which have been the main producer of opals since their discovery in the 1870’s. Nowadays, opals are mostly found in Australia, Mexico, the USA, South America, Britain, Canada, Brazil, Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Opal is formed when silica was liquefied and washed down into fissures in the surrounding rock, where it then solidified into a hardened gel. Unlike most other gemstones, opal is therefore not a crystal, but rather an amorphous solid. Opal is found in fossilized shell, wood and bone. Some precious opal forms in gas cavities in volcanic rocks, as in Mexico, and Slovakia, but most Australian deposits occur in sedimentary rocks.
OPAL BIRTHSTONE CARE AND CLEANING
Opals contain as much as 20% water, so they should never be stored in a bank or vault for long periods of time as the dehumidifiers used in many vaults can dry them out, causing a phenomenon called “Crazing,” where the gemstone cracks and it wipes out the value of the opal.
The safest way to clean your October birthstone is with warm, soapy water. Other cleaning methods might damage the opal or filler material.
If in doubt, pop into our boutique and one of our jewellery specialists will be pleased to offer guidance in making sure you are taking care of your precious gem.
TOURMALINE BIRTHSTONE MEANING & HISTORY
Tourmaline is a newer October birthstone, with its name coming from the Sinhalese word toramalli, which means “stone with mixed colours”. Tourmaline often has multiple colours in one crystal meaning there are very few gems to 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.
Due to its vast range of colours, tourmaline has often been 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 emeralds. These and other cases of mistaken identity continued for centuries until scientists recognised tourmaline as a distinct mineral species in the 1800s.
The different colours 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.
WHERE IS TOURMALINE FOUND?
Most commonly found in Brazil, tourmaline has been mined for centuries from pegmatites in the state Minas Gerais; but it is also mined in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya, Madagascar and Mozambique (among other countries in Africa). California and Maine are historically important producers of fine tourmaline in the United States.
Tourmalines are formed from subterranean intrusions of magma which are the source of a virtual kaleidoscope of gem minerals. In the late 1980s, electric green, blue and violet tourmalines entered the gem market from pegmatites in Brazil’s Paraíba State. Scientists found that the intense colours were caused by trace amounts of copper, which had previously not been recorded as a colouring agent in any other tourmaline.
In the early 2000s, Paraíba-type copper-bearing tourmalines were also discovered in Mozambique and Nigeria. Overall, prices for the best Paraíba and Paraíba-type tourmalines easily surpass other tourmalines due to their vivid hues, higher colour saturation and greater rarity.
TOURMALINE BIRTHSTONE CARE AND CLEANING
Tourmaline is rated 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness and is generally suitable for everyday wear.
Warm, soapy water is the best method for cleaning tourmaline. The use of ultrasonic and steam cleaners is not recommended.
If in doubt, come into our boutique and one of our jewellery specialists will be pleased to offer guidance in making sure you are taking care of your gemstone in the correct way.