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The Changing Colors: October Gemstone Spotlight on Tourmaline & Opal

convertible-multicolored-tourmaline-stone-goldMulticolored Tourmaline stone & 14K gold chain convertible necklace, American, 1950s. Antique Reflections Gallery.

Appropriately for the month with the best changing fall colors, October’s two birthstones, tourmaline and opal, are best known for their varied hues. According to EarthSky, tourmaline is a stone that “exhibits the broadest spectrum of gemstone colors. Gem-quality forms of this mineral have in the past been misidentified as rubies, emeralds and sapphires.” As for the opal, the name of the stone itself is derived from the Greek word “Opallos,” which literally means to see a change of color.”


French opal, emerald, pearl and diamond brooch.  France, c. 1940s. Samuel Saidian & Sons Gallery.


The common opal has a milky appearance with flecks of varied pastel colors, as in the brooch above. Opals have long been admired for their variety. The ancient Roman historian, Pliny, described the opal as being“… made up of the glories of the most precious stones. To describe it is a matter of inexpressive difficulty: There is in it the gentler fire of the ruby, the brilliant purple of the amethyst, the sea-green of the emerald, all shining together in an incredible union.” To the Romans, the opal was “a symbol of love and hope.” Today, it is the traditional wedding anniversary gift for the 12th and 14th years.


verdura-pink-tourmaline-and-18k-earclipsVerdura pink tourmaline earclips, 18K yellow gold, circa 1980-90s. Botier Inc. Gallery.

The alternate October birthstone, tourmaline, comes in a variety of colors and can be bi or tri-colored. A highly valued type of tourmaline is the bi-colored “watermelon” tourmaline, which has a green hue on the outer edges and a pink center. As a relatively recently discovered gemstone, tourmaline has little lore associated with it but it does have a very curious property: it can be charged with static electricity. When heated, the gem attracts dust, lint, paper…and perhaps love? Pink tourmaline is rapidly gaining popularity as the traditional alternative gift to the sapphire for the fifth anniversary.

pink-tourmaline-pearl-gold-drop-earrings-Cabochon pink tourmaline & pearl drop earrings, 18K yellow gold with shepherds hook closures, American, 1960s. Antique Reflections Gallery.
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