Those born in October have the unique option of selecting from a variety of traditional birthstone gems. In fact, October has six different gemstones commonly accepted as the month’s birthstone. In the United States, the opal is the most traditional selection with tourmaline being the most common alternate. Aquamarine is another popular choice which is seeing a resurgence. Aquamarine was used along with opal and beryl in ancient times to signify the month. In Tibet, jasper is the most common October birthstone, while coral is most popular in India. We will be focusing on the two most used October birthstones in the United States, the opal and pink tourmaline.

Opal is created by a solution containing water and silica. As water moves down cracks in the earth’s crust, silica from sandstone is added to the water forming a solution. As the solution settles in cracks and voids, the result of natural faults or decomposing fossils, the water begins to evaporate. Millions of years, as this process is repeated, opal is created. For example, an opal that is a centimeter long requires five to six million years to form. Naturally formed opal has a large amount of “common opal”, or “potch” as the miners refer to it. This is different from the gem-quality opals used in fine jewelry. The word opal itself is believed to mean a visual change in color. Gem-quality opals come in many shades, but all have a play of color that is not present in “common opal”. White and black opals with color inflections ranging from fire red to iridescent green are the most worn. It is important to note that opals must be cared for as its relatively soft composition lends itself to scratches and cracks. Heat or sudden temperature changes, caustic solutions, and aggressive cleaning techniques should be avoided. The optimal way to clean opal is with warm soapy water, and they should never be cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner.

Opal Necklace
Opal and diamond necklace

Opals have been revered since ancient times. The first known opal pieces were dated to approximately 4000 BC. The Roman Empire was the first to develop opal markets. Early on, most opals were mined in Hungary. Present-day opals are mined in many places but primarily in Australia. However, scientists have even discovered opal deposits on the surface of Mars. Opals are also a suggested gift for the 14th wedding anniversary. Over the centuries, many beliefs about opals have driven their value. Often associated with faithfulness, confidence, and good luck for those born in October, many rulers wore them believing they ward off evil spirits. The Greeks believed they protected the wearer from disease. In Europe, the opal was a symbol of purity and truth. Queen Victoria herself cherished the opal more than any other gem. For those seeking the most traditional October birthstone, the play of color in gem opals will not disappoint.

Tourmaline is a semi-precious gem that comes in more color varieties than any other natural gemstone. In fact, many tourmalines have multiple colors in the same stone. Egyptians believed that tourmalines broke through a rainbow, which relates to their wide range of colors. Tourmalines are often confused for other gems because of these color variations. The pink tourmaline variety was chosen for the October birthstone as it signifies unconditional love and compassion according to Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. Some believe that tourmaline helps to relieve tension, improve hand-eye coordination, and promote many desirable effects in the areas of happiness, objectivity, serenity, tolerance, and compassion.

Being a relatively new birthstone, pink tourmaline was chosen as an alternate to the opal by the National Association of Jewelers in 1912. Many explanations are given for the change; however, the most likely reason is that their list of birthstones was developed only featuring transparent gems, unlike opals which are opaque. Like opal, it is a silica-based gemstone, but is harder and more durable than the opal. Pink tourmalines should not be left in direct sunlight and should be gently cleaned using mild soap and water. It was first discovered in the 15th or 16th century by Dutch traders on the coast of Italy. Believed to be emeralds due to their green color, it was not until the 1800s that it was discovered to be its own gemstone. Tourmaline is an especially rare gemstone, making it especially desirable. It can be mined in areas across the globe, but most deposits are found in Brazil. Some of the best pink tourmaline deposits are in California. Tourmaline has some interesting energetic effects and can charge electrically with temperature changes.

Whether you are mesmerized by the play of color in opals, or entranced by the crystal beauty of pink tourmaline, those born in October are fortunate to have two incredible gems to choose from. For the traditionalist, the opal is one of the oldest and most revered gems known to man. Tourmaline is a relatively new discovery; however, it has only gained in popularity since being selected in 1912. Some even like to combine the two and have envisioned some truly incredible custom pieces. Opals and Pink Tourmaline are also widely popular choices whether the wearer was born in October or not. Their elegance lends to a classic look that is achieved in pieces from rings and pendants to bracelets and earrings. Paffrath and Son Jewelers in Willmar, MN has a wonderful selection of October gemstones in stock and can create unique custom pieces on site. We hope you will visit our store and see our selection for yourself.

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