The October birthstones are the striking Opal and Tourmaline. Opal goes first, for it is far older…Revered for centuries as one of the most auspicious birthstones the Opal is thought to possess the virtues of all other gemstones. October birthstone jewelry rings were essentially the very first mood rings, which seem to change in appearance and hue, in reaction to your emotional state. The stone actually contains tiny spheres of silica gel, which refract light in an infinite number of ever-changing rainbows and shimmers. It does change color with your body heat and can become even more beautiful when warm. They are the most delicate of stones. If you don’t oil them, they will crumble to powder. October birthdays are said to be extremely adaptable, with a quick wit and a resourceful nature, and the Opal captures this essence perfectly. The name Opal derives from the Greek Opallos, meaning "to see a change (of color)." Opals range in color from milky white to black with flashes of yellow, orange, green, red, and blue. An opal's beauty is the product of contrast between its color play and its background. The Fire Opal from Mexico should be mentioned here too, it is a gorgeous translucent red-orange—Fire Opal, get it?
Tourmaline is the second October birthstone and has become a favorite gemstone among jewelry designers, and gem collectors the world over. Since it is available in a wide variety of colors, it is ideally suited to almost anyone's taste. Tourmaline also is known for displaying several colors in the same gemstone. These bi-color or tri-color gems are formed in many combinations; gemstones with clear color distinctions are highly prized. One multi-color variety is known as watermelon tourmaline, and features green, pink, and white colors bands; to resemble its namesake, the gemstone is cut into thin slices having a pink center, white ring, and green edge. Tourmaline has an unusual property. When it is warmed or rubbed, it attracts small bits of paper, lint and ash. This occurs because the gem becomes charged with static electricity. In fact, Benjamin Franklin used this gem in his studies of electricity. Maintaining a Tourmaline exhibit at museums requires frequent cleaning of the gemstone because heat from the lights of the display case create a charge in the stone that attracts dust. Compared with other gemstones, Tourmalines are a relatively recent discovery. Hence, it lacks the rich lore that accompanies many other precious gems. However, among some people, the stone is known as the “peace stone,” believed to dispel fear and make its wearer calm.
The October birthstone poem reflects some of the properties with which the Opal is associated - hope, innocence and purity. The traditional metaphysical properties for the October Birthstone Opal are happiness, faithfulness, loyalty and confidence. Here’s the traditional jeweler’s poem: "October's child is born for woe/And life's vicissitudes must know/But lay an opal on her breast/And hope will lull those woes to rest."
To ancient Romans, the Opal was a symbol of love and hope. Asians called it the “anchor of hope.” Arabs say it fell from the heavens in flashes of lightning. It was believed to make its wearer invisible, hence the Opal was the talisman of thieves and spies. During the Medieval period, a change in color intensity of an Opal was believed to indicate if its wearer was ill or in good health. The Opal was supposed to maintain a strong heart, prevent fainting, protect against infection, and cleanse foul-smelling air. The stone, as in ancient times, is still regarded as a symbol of hope. In Elizabethan England, the Opal was treasured for its beauty. Shakespeare wrote of it in Twelfth Night as the “queen of gems” and Queen Victoria presented her children with Opal jewelry, thus making the stone popular.
But there is a darker history too: the stone has a mixed reputation, chiefly due to a novel written by Sir Walter Scott in 1887 that depicted it as a stone of evil. The Opal’s reputation changed in the mid-14th century also. The Black Death swept across Europe, killing one quarter of its population. The gem was believed to be the cause of death. When worn by someone struck with the deadly plague, it would appear brilliant only until the person died. Then it would change in appearance, losing its luster. In reality, it was the sensitivity of this stone to changes in temperature that altered its appearance, as the heat from a burning fever gave way to the chill of death. And in Australia, there is a legend of a huge opal that governs the stars and guides human love, as well as controls the gold in mines. But Australian aborigines see it in a different light – to them, the opal is the devil that lurks in the ground, a half-serpent and half-human with flashes of wicked magic that lures men to destruction. Our very nature as humans are reflected in this stone, light and dark. Happy Halloween!