October is a super unique and exciting month for birthstones because technically there are two! Opal and Pink Tourmaline are the stars of the spooky season but why do we have two birthstones, and what makes them so special?
There’s no real solid evidence on why we have two birthstones for October, but there are two ideas floating around.
Originally Opal was the sole birthstone for October, however some people argued that it was too feminine, too fragile and it wasn’t durable for everyday wear. This is because Opal is only a 5.5 on the Mohs hardness scale. In comparison, a Sapphire is 9. To give more options for gemstones that could be worn for a lifetime, Pink Tourmaline was added as a secondary option. It is also thought that another reason that some months have more than one birthstone is so that people could still purchase a gemstone if the primary birthstone was too expensive. I’m looking at you, April (Diamond) babies!
Opal is the traditional gem for the October birthstone. It is a classic choice, with a milky white ‘background’ colour and a rainbow of iridescent tones that shine in different lighting. Opals can be found in a variety of hues such as black, pinks, greens, blues and even more! They are mined from sources all over the world, but human-mined Opals were first discovered in a cave in Kenya by famous anthropologist Louis Leakey dating back to 4000 BC. There is also evidence that they were mined in North America 10,000 years ago. However, since the late 1800s, it has been most commonly exported from Australia. Australia is now the most famous exporter of Opals, providing 95% of the worldwide opals with the industry valued at almost 90 million AUD per year.`
The soft but beautiful gemstone also has a really fascinating history all across the world, with multiple beliefs and traditions contributing to its modern popularity. Multiple cultures have credited the opal to have supernatural and/or magical properties. In Ancient Greece, they believed it to give the gift of prophecy and health, such as protection from disease. However in Arabic legends it is believed to have fallen from Heaven during flashes of lightning. They also have past and current symbolisation of hope, and purity.
How are Opals Formed?
Opal is a hydrated armorphous form of silica. This means that it is a solid that contains water, but lacks certain characteristics to be classified as a crystal. It’s water content can sometimes be as high as 21%! Opals began to form in Australia over 500 million years ago, when the land was covered by a shallow inland sea. The sediment that settled aty the bottom of this sea was high in silica, which slowly began to trickle down into clay beds and even fossils. As the silica was deposited, it formed opals.
Because of its water content, and armorphous properties, Opals are very soft and delicate gemstones that should be treated gently, and with care. It is recommended that any opal jewellery should be cleaned with warm water and a mild soap. Please do not use any harsh chemicals on Opal jewellery. You can also use a soft bristled toothbrush or a cloth to gentle polish the stone.
We are often asked why we do not use genuine opals in initial piercings – So lets explain why! Opals are unique within body jewellery in that they contain a very high natural water content; sometimes as much as 21% by weight. Sterilising jewellery involves using an autoclave, which reaches high temperatures and pressures over 130 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, the water content of opals can flash-evaporate which can cause the gemstone to split. That would be an expensive mistake!
Pink Tourmaline is the more modern addition to the October birthstones rota. It is a strikingly beautiful stone known for its range of pink colours. It can be found in a variety of shades ranging all the way from pale pink to rich, deep magenta.
Tourmaline as a category is known for its variety of colours. Depending on which elements are found in its crystalline structure, the colours can range from greens to reds, to blues and pinks. This makes it an excellent substitute for other, often more expensive precious gemstones. For example, Green Tourmaline was found in the 1500s by a Spanish conquistador in Brazil, who washed some dirt from the stone, and due to its vibrant hues of green mistook it for an Emerald. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that it was recognised as its own category of mineral by geologists and gemologists.
Popularity for the gemstome Tourmaline spiked in the 1800s in America, when it wa sold to the company Tiffany and Co, who are infamous for their excellent and early adoption of modern marketing techniques. However, despite the American popularity for Tourmaline, it was actually China that dominated the market for Pink Tourmaline. The Dowager Empress Tz’u Hsi was paticularly fond of the pink tones and purchased huge quanities of the stone. So much so, that when the Chinese government collapsed in 1912, the market for Pink Tourmaline also collapsed!
Throughout history, Pink Tourmaline has had many different attributes associated with it. The Romans used it as a sleep aid or stress reliever, whilst many artists, writers and creatives have used it to stimulate creativity. There are modern beliefs that it renews vitality, can strengthen self-confidence and even enhance sensuality. It is believed to be the stone of love and humanity, and many crystal healers use it for healing. It has strong ties to being an aid for physical and emotional healing, especially to remove the emotional pain from heartache any many forms of abuse. It is a stone for love, passion and joy.
At Rogue we don’t place much merit in these purported magical powers, but it is interesting to read.
Pink Tourmaline is quite a hard stone (7.5 on the Mohs scale), which means it is durable and suitable for everyday wear. To clean your Tourmaline jewellery at home it is recommended to use warm soapy water or an ultrasonic cleaner.
We stock jewellery from brands from across the world, and can source items in all birthstones imaginable! If you would like to treat yourself to some meaningful pieces, just get in contact with us.
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