Individuals born in October get to choose between two birthstones — tourmaline and opal. Each birthstone comes in a rainbow of shades and color combinations, giving October babies a variety of options.
Between tourmaline (whose color depends on trace elements in its chemical makeup) and opal (which diffracts light to show a play of multiple colors), October’s birthstones offer a full spectrum of gemstones to suit anyone’s personal tastes.
The name “opal” originates from the Greek word opallios, which meant “to see a change in color.” Opal’s characteristic “play-of-color” was explained in the 1960s, when scientists discovered that it’s composed of microscopic silica spheres that diffract light to display various colors of the rainbow.
Since opal was discovered in Australia around 1850, the country has produced 95 percent of the world’s supply. Opal is also mined in Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, Ethiopia, the Czech Republic and parts of the U.S., including Nevada and Idaho.
For centuries, people have associated this precious gemstone with good luck. The Opal was a symbol of hope to the ancient Romans. The people of the Orient christened the Opal, ‘Anchor of Hope’. According to Arabic legend, opals fell from the sky in bolts of lightning. Australian aborigines, meanwhile, believed that the creator came to Earth on a rainbow, leaving these colorful stones where his feet touched the ground.
Egyptian legend tells that tourmaline found its famed array of colors when, on its journey up from the Earth’s center, it passed through a rainbow.
The name “tourmaline” comes from the Sinhalese words tura mali, which mean “stone of mixed colors.” As its name implies, tourmaline stands apart from other gemstones with its broad spectrum of colors in every shade of the rainbow.
Tourmaline is not one mineral, but a fairly complex group of minerals with different chemical compositions and physical properties. Certain trace elements produce distinct colors, and many resulting varieties have their own names:
Tourmaline is mined in Brazil, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Mozambique, Madagascar, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the U.S.—primarily Maine and California.
Tourmaline is desirable because of its sheer range of color options. Combined with a good hardness of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale, tourmaline makes very wearable birthstone jewelry.