Opal’s heavenly hues have captivated admirers dating back to Roman times. A favorite of Queen Victoria, opals are literally the stuff of legends: the ancient Greeks believed that opals bestowed upon wearers safety from disease and the gift of prophecy, while Arabic lore proposed that opals fell from above during flashes of lightning. These precious gems have long been celebrated as symbols of truth, fidelity and hope, and prized for their magical attributes.
The opal is Australia’s national gemstone, and the bulk of the world’s opals are found there--a staggering 95 percent, to be exact. The name opal means “a change of color,” in reference to its enthralling ability to refract and reflect light. Opals are formed during an intricate cycle in which water seeps through the earth, accumulating silica and filling sedimentary cracks. When these deposits harden into layers of silica balls, opals are born. Like snowflakes, each opal is different, unique and wondrous.
While an opal’s initial color may appear to be white, grey or black, the diffraction of light passing through the stone’s infinitesimal silica spheres results in a veritable light show of spectral shades. 66mint’s Opal and Diamond Chandelier Necklace is a stunning example of opal’s mystical brilliance.
While opal’s colors appear to radiate from within, tourmaline is a bright and beautiful gemstone available in a diversity of lively hues, ranging from colorless to fanciful fuchsias, verdant greens, deep blues and sunny yellows.
First discovered in Brazil in the 1500s, tourmaline wasn’t recognized as its own mineral species until the development of modern mineralogy in the 19th century. Because of their magnificent colors, tourmaline gems have historically been mistaken for other precious stones, such as sapphires, emeralds and rubies. In fact, no other gems exhibit such an electrifying breadth and depth of colors as tourmaline. Tourmaline is not just beautiful, it is also extremely durable, unlike the fragile opal.
While the majority of opals hail from the land down under, tourmaline can commonly be found right in our own backyard. Tourmaline deposits in Riverside and San Diego Counties are major producers of the gemstone, having exceeded the production levels of all other deposits throughout the Northern Hemisphere, and perhaps second only to Brazil in terms of global production.
Whether you’re a fan of opal’s inner glow or tourmaline’s outer dazzle, the beauty of these October birthstones is the perfect fit for the season and beyond.