Octobers Birthstone: Spooky Tales of Pink Tourmaline
There are two October birthstones: opals and pink tourmaline. But while opals are more famous and certainly have their charm, pink tourmaline’s spooky qualities make it the perfect birthstone for the month in which we revel in ghost stories and the supernatural.
You see, pink tourmaline shares a unique quality with all tourmaline gemstones—it’s pyroelectric and piezoelectric. That means that when heated or put under pressure, tourmaline gemstones take on an electric charge and can actually pull things towards them. If you vigorously rub and warm up your pink tourmaline birthstone jewelry, it can “magically” attract nearby bits of paper and dust. It might even make the hairs on your arm stand on end!
But spooky action at a distance isn’t the only haunting quality of this October birthstone. Tourmaline jewelry can also appear to be different colors when viewed from different angles. The scientific explanation for this is pleochroism, an optical phenomenon in which light wavelengths are absorbed and bent in different degrees as they pass through the crystal. The mundane result, however, is that a set of birthstone jewelry is mystical and ever changing. Is it any wonder that tourmaline gemstones have been considered magical since ancient times?
Amongst gemstones, tourmaline is available in the widest variety of colors. The Egyptians even told a tale that tourmaline passed over a rainbow on its journey to earth and called it the gemstone of the rainbow.
There are even varieties of color in pink tourmaline itself. One of the most popular varieties is called “watermelon tourmaline.” Watermelon tourmaline is green on the outside, giving way to a slight white rind, and then a brilliant pink or red interior. When October’s birthstone displays three colors, as it does with watermelon tourmaline, it’s known as multicolored tourmaline. If it displays only two colors, then it’s known as bicolored tourmaline.
Because tourmaline gemstones come in every color under the sun, special names have been invented to distinguish them. For example, blue tourmaline is known as indigolite and green tourmaline is known as verdelite, so when shopping for your October Birthstone, keep in mind that pink tourmaline also has another name: rubellite. (For jewelers and gemstone enthusiasts, a true rubellite is a variety that does not change colors depending on the light source or viewing angle, but pink tourmaline might be sold as rubellite anyway.)
Tourmaline is the official mineral of Maine. It’s quarried there and in a variety of other locations all around the world, so October’s birthstone is available in almost all price ranges. It can even be irradiated to give it a more intense color.
Tourmaline ranges between 7-7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale; that makes it ideal for birthstone jewelry, which must both be durable and wear well. (October’s other birthstone, opal, is not as hard as tourmaline, and can become brittle and break easily. Also, whereas pink tourmaline can be faceted for more traditional jewelry settings, opals are best polished and smooth.)
Remember too that if transparent rubellite or multicolored watermelon tourmaline is not your style, you can even find October’s birthstone in a cat’s eye pattern. And if that’s not perfect for the month that celebrates Halloween, what is?