Exactly when we began associating gems with certain months is a matter of debate. Some say that it was a custom introduced by Arabian astrologists. Others believe the twelve gems refer to the gems on Aaron’s breastplate in the Book of Exodus in the Bible, or the stones placed on the foundations of the wall of the Holy City in Revelations. Either way, the idea that a specific stone is appropriate for people born in a particular month is more recent.
So who decided which stone goes with which month? And why do some months, including October, get two or even three birthstones? In 1912, the National Association of Jewelers established an official list. That list declared that opal and tourmaline are the birthstones for the month of October. In 1952, the Jewelry Industry Council of America updated the October birthstones to opal and pink tourmaline (sorry, gentlemen!).
Opals are gorgeous iridescent gemstones that often manifest multiple colors. The ancient Roman philosopher Pliny described the opal as combining the fire of the ruby, the purple of the amethyst, and the sea-green of the emerald, all shining together in an indescribable union.
When it comes to mystical properties, you get quite the bang for your buck with opals, as they are said to imbue the wearer with the properties of the gemstones represented by each of the gem’s colors. So, if you wear a blue, green, and red opal, you would gain the traits of one who wears a sapphire, emerald, and ruby. When a deceitful, impure, or insincere person wears an opal, the color and fire of that gem is said to fade.
Opals are the national gemstone of Australia, and many of the world’s precious opals are found there. One of the most prized characteristics of opals is the “play-of-color,” which can be enhanced by submerging the stone in water or oil. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) lists play-of-color as one of the most important factors in valuing an opal. It incorporates pattern, range of colors, intensity of colors, and the percentage of colors compared to the background.
If you’re purchasing an opal for your October angel, look for one with plenty of pearly luster and play-of-color. Opals are particularly beautiful when cut ‘en cabochon,’ so ask your jeweler about the cut of the opal before purchasing it. This isn’t a very hard gemstone, so it must be seasoned well, and could require frequent polishing to look its best. Turn-of-the-century gem expert Oliver Cummings Farrington recommends that you avoid pairing a diamond and opal together, as both stones rely on ‘fire’ for their attractiveness. Apart from that advice, though, we think opals look stunning in any setting!
Few gemstones come in as wide a variety of colors as tourmaline, which may be why the Jewelry Industry Council of America found it necessary to specify that only pink tourmaline counts as an October birthstone. In fact, the word ‘tourmaline’ comes from the Singhalese word ‘tourmali,’ which means ‘mixed colors.’ (Singhalese is spoken in Sri Lanka, also known as Gem Island.) Tourmalines are generally classified by color, such as red, green, blue, or pink tourmaline. A particularly prized variety of pink or red tourmaline is known as rubellite. Although this name is often applied to any pink or red tourmaline, a true rubellite’s pink or red shade will be just as vibrant in artificial light as it is in daylight. In contrast, most other pink tourmalines can appear brownish in artificial light.
Tourmaline is pyroelectric; when it is heated and then cooled, it becomes electrically charged, with one end positive and the other negative. When charged, it will attract dust particles or even small bits of paper. Early Dutch traders astonished the Europeans by using heated tourmaline to draw the ash from their meerschaum pipes.
From the metaphysical perspective, pink tourmaline is said to reduce stress and anxiety, reduce clumsiness, and even treat motion sickness. Some crystal healing experts recommend it as an excellent stone for children, as it is said to soothe, calm, and help the child consider consequences before acting.
When purchasing a pink tourmaline, keep an eye out for inclusions. Colored tourmalines are often found in liquid-rich environments, and these liquids can be captured within the crystal. Depending on the cut of the tourmaline, the thin, silky bands of inclusions can cause a cat’s-eye effect. As long as the color of the gem is vibrant and attractive, most dealers tolerate some inclusions.
At the microscopic level, tourmaline crystals are long and narrow, allowing for a variety of interesting cuts and very unique, one-of-a-kind items of jewelry. Tourmalines are frequently cut into long rectangles to showcase the color of each particular stone. According to the Gemological Institute of America, price per carat increases dramatically as you shop for gems over five carats. When you’re shopping for a pink tourmaline, focus on the cut and color more than carat size. Which would you prefer: a deep, vibrant pink gem or a large, pale red stone?
At Lavalier, we think you really can’t go wrong with either pink tourmaline or opal. And if you spring for a different color of tourmaline, like the highly sought-after blue-green Paraiba tourmaline, we’re sure she won’t object.
Rings and necklaces incorporating birthstones make great gifts for current or expectant mothers, so if you’ve got a baby shower coming up, buy her some jewelry that she’ll cherish for a lifetime. And just in case that newborn pulls or tugs that necklace off, or she misplaces it amid the hustle and bustle of caring for her new bundle of joy, consider adding jewelry insurance through Lavalier. You can buy it online in minutes!