Tourmaline and opal share the privilege of being October birthstones, and they complement each other quite nicely! Both of these gemstones have some highly-recognizable traits. For example, the opal is easily set apart from other gems for its rainbow phenomenon that produces a unique “play of color”. The Paraiba tourmaline glows with a life and breath of its own, showcasing vivid blues and greens as do many of the other stunning colors of tourmaline such as rubellite.
Tourmaline Color: This gem has a wide range of colors, coming in virtually every color you could imagine. Pinks and greens are the most common, but the pool water blue
Paraiba variety is the most sought after. Other notable varieties include bicolor, tricolor, watermelon (pink center with a whitish ring and green surrounding), and rubellite (literally “ruby-like” red or deep pink).
Opal Color: The four prominent variations include white, black, crystal, and fire opal. White is the most popular type, and it’s probably the first opal that comes to mind for jewelry collectors. Black opal is the most expensive, showcasing translucent to opaque play of color on a black base. Crystal opal is more transparent, and fire opal has a translucent red, orange, yellow or brown color that may not have any play of color.
Tourmaline History & Fun Facts:
- Tourmaline was confused with other stones for centuries due to its variations in color. It wasn’t identified uniquely until the late 1700s.
- The name Tourmaline is derived from Sinhalese tourmalli, which means mixed gems of various types.
- The last empress of China loved the gem and was buried with a carved pillow of California tourmaline.
- In addition to being the October birthstone, it is the traditional gift for 8th wedding anniversaries.
- The gem was valued in ancient medicine for strengthening properties. It was believed a tourmaline could heal the nervous system, lymph glands, and blood diseases.
- Tourmaline is mined all over the world, but it has been crowned as the “Unofficial Gem of the U.S.A.” because it was one of the first gemstones to be mined in the states after. It was first mined at Mount Mica in Maine, but California is the largest producer of tourmaline in the United States.
- Tourmaline mined in the Brazilian state of Paraiba get their unmistakable blue color from the trace element copper.
Opal History & Fun Facts:
- The name opal is derived from Sanskrit upala, meaning gem.
- Middle Eastern folklore believed opals were born from lightning, which created the vibrant flashes of color. Oddly enough, the gem is created from the rain in thunderstorms. When the water seeps down into the cracks and crevasses of rocks, it evaporates and leaves silica, which hardens to form the gem over millions of years!
- Australia is the world’s largest producer of all types of opals, followed by Brazil and Mexico for white and fire opals.
- Water can account for upwards of 10% of an opals weight.
- Opal is considered a magical gem because it can possess and combine every color in its phenomenon.
- Opal is one of two gemstones to be found on the planet Mars! The other is peridot.
- Opals symbolize hope, purity, and luck – contrary to the imagination of writer Sir Walter Scott in the 1800s, who introduced the superstition surrounding opals in the novel Anne of Gerstein.
- Opal is the traditional wedding gift for 14th wedding anniversaries.
Tourmaline Hardness: 7.0-7.5
Tourmaline Care: You can wear your tourmaline relatively worry-free, though a protective setting is recommended to prevent unintentionally chipping the stone. Mild detergent and water are best for cleaning your tourmaline.
Opal Hardness: 5-6.5
Opal Care: Opals need to be gently worn, and placed in a setting that protects the gem from chipping or breaking. Never put an opal in an ultrasonic cleaner. Mild detergent and water work best for safely cleaning your opal.