This parti-colored beauty is known for its dazzling display and array of colors. In fact, opals change color according to angle in a phenomenon known as ‘play of color.’ Opal was first discovered in Australia in the late 1800’s. The land down under has since become the world’s leading opal producer, generating upwards of 90% of the world’s opal supply. Opal reigns as the Australian national gemstone and is also mined in Brazil, Honduras, Mexico, the Czech Republic, Ethiopia and even the United States (Nevada and Idaho, specifically).
The name ‘opal’ is derived from the Greek word ‘opallios,’ which means ‘to change color.’ In 1956, the biggest and most valuable opal to date was discovered in Coober Pedy, Australia during the Olympic Games. This large-and-in-charge gemstone goes by the name ‘Olympic Australis’ and it is a doozy, weighing in at a whopping 7.6 pounds (17,000 carats) and valued at $2.5 million.
One popular variant of this October gemstone is Mexican opal, which contains a higher percentage of water and thus ranges from translucent to transparent in color (unlike traditional vivid-hued variants). Opal produced in the plateau of Gondar, Ethiopia — called ‘Welo opal’ — has also become popular in recent years. Since small stores of opal were discovered in Ethiopia in 1994, the region has become known for producing high-quality yet lower-priced stones. This advantage has helped Welo opal carve an ever-growing niche on the gemstone market today.
Tourmaline is a semi-precious stone that, like opal, appears in a wide spectrum of colors, including multi-colored and even dichroic (color that changes according to angle). Tourmaline is comprised of a large group of boron silicate minerals and rates a 7-7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale. It is predominantly sourced in Brazil, which has held strong as the dominant tourmaline producer for almost 500 years. Tourmaline is also mined in Sri Lanka, Brazil, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Mozambique, Madagascar, the U.S. and Pakistan.
This colorful gemstone has an equally colorful history. According to ancient lore, tourmaline traveled along a rainbow and picked up the rainbow’s coloration as a result. Ancient magicians wore black tourmalines (called Schorl), to ward off evil. Many people today still wear Schorl to guard against negative forces as well as for its purported healing properties. Artists and writers throughout history have also used it to enhance creativity, while many spiritualists attribute beneficial physical and mental attributes to this versatile stone.
The name ‘tourmaline’ is a Sri Lankan word meaning ‘mixed stone.’ It is also pyroelectric, which means it gathers an electrical charge when heated. It is also piezoelectric, which means it becomes electrically charged with applied pressure. Though tourmaline’s pyroelectric properties may not be powerful enough to light kindling, its bioelectric properties and stunning color spectrum make it a standout stone indeed.