Jewelry History: October Birthstones

October’s birthstone is opal. Learn more about this interesting gemstone after the jump.

Tradition has it that people born in October will get luck from wearing opal. Because of the opal’s characteristic “rainbow” sheen, people in the Middle Ages believed that opal stones contained all the powers of the different birthstones in the twelve-stone system. A common superstition held that an opal could confer invisibility on someone if they wrapped it in a bay leaf and clutched it in their hand.

Actress Vera Farmiga at the 2010 Academy Awards, wearing opal and diamond earrings.

In modern time, ppals, which are primarily mined in Australia, but are also found in the U.S.A. and Africa, are prized for their unusual colour and translucence. The two most popular kinds of opals are common opals, which appear whitish in colour, and precious opals, which seem to contain rainbow-like bands of colour when seen from different angles. Rarer opals are dark grey, black, yellow, and orange in colour. More brightly coloured opals are sometimes called precious fire opals.

Some of the world’s most famous stones are opals, most from Australia where opal is the national gemstone. The Andamooka Opal from South Australia is a brilliantly coloured red, blue and green opal that weighs over 203 carats. Currently, it’s part of a diamond necklace owned by Queen Elizabeth II. The Aurora Australis opal has a naturally-occurring starfish pattern on its back and weighs 180 carats. It is on display in a Sydney showroom.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Andamooka Opal necklace and earrings.

The famous Aurora Australis Opal.

Opal jewelry is rarer now than it once was, but the opal’s multicoloured shine and unusual translucence makes it a timeless standout, both for people born in October and everyone else. Another alternative to opal for October birthdays is tourmaline, a more common, but still ultra-colourful stone that echoes the opal’s versatility and understated drama. To see our collection of tourmaline, jewelry, click here.

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