October’s birthstones are two of the most versatile gemstones. Prized for their range of colors, opal and tourmaline have inspired jewelers, poets, and artists. Shakespeare called opal “the queen of gems” and Pliny the Elder wrote that within its depths, you could see “the living fire of the ruby, the glorious purple of the amethyst, the sea green of the emerald, all glittering together in an incredible mixture of light.” Opal’s unique play of color is caused by the way silica combines with water in the cavities of ancient rock formations.
Opal jewelry suffered from a spate of bad press in the early 19th century due to the popularity of Sir Walter Scott’s novel “Anne of Geierstein,” which features an opal talisman that rains misfortune on its wearer. Queen Victoria, jewel lover extraordinaire, put no stock in the bad luck rumors and wore opals throughout her reign. In 1887, to celebrate the discovery of black opals in Australia, Victoria gave gifts of opal jewelry to her children, reestablishing the stone’s popularity in one fell swoop.
Like Opal, tourmaline embraces every color of the rainbow, occurring in vivid shades of pink, red, green, and blue. Tourmaline gets its name from a Sinhalese word toramalli, meaning “mixed gems”, the name Dutch merchants gave the colorful pebbles found in the Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) gem fields. Historically, tourmalines were believed to spur creativity, bring awareness, and grant enlightenment. What a thoughtful gift to bestow on your favorite October baby!