Calling All October Babies: Are You Team Opal or Team Tourmaline?
DID YOU KNOW: If your birthday falls in October, you get your pick of two beautiful birthstones - tourmaline and opal. The mystique of these gemstones comes in part from their ability to show up in an array of different colors. This unique characteristic of these stones has led to folklore involving rainbows that describes how each came to be, according to the American Gem Society.
The tales of how opal made its way into existence are not lacking in number. Arabic legend has the opal falling from the sky in bolts of lightning while the Australian aborigines claim that they were left behind on earth when their creator came in on a rainbow. In 75 AD, the stone was compared to volcanoes and vibrant paintings by the Roman scholar, Pliny. It was originally thought that the opal was a gemstone of good fortune and prosperity. Then, in 1829, the opal swiftly turned into an omen of back luck when Sir Walter Scott published his book, "Anne of Geierstein," which tells the story of a princess who passed away after the opal she wore on a necklace had its magic extinguish by a few drops of holy water. In the following year after Scott's book was published, opal sales in Europe fell by 50%.
Opal being out of favor with the public didn't last long. In 1850, large opal deposits were discovered in Australia and six years later, the world's largest and most valuable opal was unearthed. The "Olympic Australis," as it was called, was valued at $2.5 million in 2005 and measures 11" long and weighs 7.6 pounds.
Today, the opal remains a popular and sought-after gemstone, despite its rising prices as more and more of the discovered deposits in Australia are depleted in keeping up with the high demand.
Ancient Egyptian legend states that tourmaline passed through a rainbow on its way up from the center of the earth, and that is why it can be found in so many different colors. It is because of its ability to be found in varying hues that it was mistaken as other gemstones before it was actually identified as its own mineral species in the 1800s. In the 1500s, a Spanish conquistador thought that the green rock he had found was an emerald and in the 1400s, black tourmaline was given an entirely different name, "schorl," and was traded as its own mineral species for centuries.
In the early 1890s, tourmaline was discovered in California, during a period when China represented the biggest market for the gem. When the Chinese government crashed in 1912, so did the tourmaline trade. It wasn't until the 1980s and 90s, when it was found in Brazil, that sales began to increase.
Tourmaline is a tricky gemstone. There is no shortage of it being mined around the world, however, it is rare to find pieces in brighter, more vibrant colors that are also "fine gem-quality." It is because of this that the price for it can range from color to color.
NOW YOU KNOW: The history of these gemstones is as vast and colorful as the colors that they can be seen in. If your birthday does fall in October, you have two very historically rich birthstones to choose from.
For more information on how to get your hands on one of these spectacular gems, feel free to contact us!