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Spotlight on antique birthstones – opal and tourmaline October birthstones

Spotlight on antique birthstones – Opal and tourmaline October birthstones


October babies can choose between two birthstones, the opal and the tourmaline. Here, we take an in-depth look at each.

There are some months in the year that have two associated birthstones, giving anyone born in these months a choice! Originally, October had a single birthstone, the opal. Later a second, tourmaline, was added with some believing that the opal was not durable enough for regular wear.

What is an opal?

An opal is a semi-precious stone formed from silica.

Where do opals come from?

95% of the world’s opals originate from Australia but other countries of origin include Mexico, Brazil and Ethiopia.

What is the meaning of the opal as a birthstone?

The opal is associated with purity and truth, and ancient civilisations believed the opal imparted psychic abilities and was synonymous with love and hope.

What colour are opals?

Opals are found in a host of stunning colours, with each stone featuring a unique colour combination. The different colours that occur are dependent on the size of the silica crystals present in the stone; the crystals trigger light refraction which creates the different colours. This phenomenon of shifting rainbow colours is referred to as ‘play of colour’. Opals are found in several colours – white with rainbow flashes, a transparent hue with colour flashes, and prized black opals found in New South Wales.

How to care for opal jewellery

Opals are very porous so should not be soaked or submerged in water for prolonged periods, as this can damage them. Avoid contact with chemicals and cleaning fluids such as bleach and clean gently with a solution of mild detergent and room-temperature water, always rinsing well.

What is tourmaline?

The second birthstone for October, tourmaline is a semi-precious gemstone named after the Sinhalese word turmali or toramalli, which means mixed and is thought to refer to the wide range of colours that tourmaline comes in.

Where is tourmaline found?

Brazil and Africa are the largest producers of tourmaline but it is also found elsewhere in the world, including Afghanistan.

What is the meaning of tourmaline as a birthstone?

Tourmaline is believed to heal broken hearts by removing emotional pain and negative feelings, and by encouraging love. It is said to ease the negativity that can damage relationships.   

What does tourmaline look like?

Unrivalled in the spectrum of colours it is found in, tourmaline has a palette of every shade – pink, red, emerald green and neon green as well as violet and blue. This wide range of colours has led in the past to tourmaline being mistaken for higher-value, precious stones. Most famously, a ‘ruby’ in the Caesar’s Ruby Pendant, part of the Russian crown jewels, was in fact found to be a red tourmaline!

Care of tourmaline

Scoring higher on the Mohs scale of hardness for stones than the opal, tourmaline jewellery can be worn daily and will cope with most chemicals. Heat can damage the tourmaline however, and ultrasonic cleaners should be avoided, using a solution of soap in warm water and a soft brush instead.

Opal and tourmaline jewellery from Hemswell Antique Centres

If you are fortunate enough to have a choice of birthstones then why not pop along to our centres, not far from the historic cathedral city of Lincoln. Home to hundreds of dealers, we offer antique jewellery for every month of the year. A small selection of antique opal jewellery and tourmaline jewellery can be viewed online, but a visit to us in person will leave you spoiled for choice!

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