Monday, October 5, 2015

10.05.15 O is for October...

Opals in the Gem Room at the Smithsonian
...and opals and overdrive.

Around our house, mid-October marks the beginning of a multi-month frenzy of birthdays, anniversaries and holidays that leaves me winded just thinking about it - thank goodness the summer heat is showing signs of abating. By the time the mayhem subsides, we'll be a couple of weeks into 2016.

Since birthdays are a big part of all that craziness, I'm starting this month with a post about October's birthstones - opal and tourmaline.

Photo Credit: Able Ground
I find opals fascinating - they are unlike any other gem I can think of, in that they are composed of stacks of silica spheres, as opposed to most minerals which have a linear crystal structure. Opals are very soft - around a 6.0 on the Mohs scale (a diamond is a 10) - which makes them delicate, and better in earrings or pendants than rings, just because of wear and tear.

Most of the world's opals come from Australia, and another jewelry loving friend recently told me that there is an Aboriginal legend about their origin. There are variations on the story, but they all involve a rainbow being sent to the earth as a message of peace - certainly something we can all use in these tumultuous times.

In some versions, the opals were formed where the rainbow touched the ground, in others it is where the creator stepped. The details of the legend may vary, but is clear why the Aborigines believed these gems were the embodiment of a rainbow - the finest ones contain every color.

Most opals are cut as cabochons rather than faceted - in part because of their softness - and because they are somewhat opaque faceting doesn't add as much as it does to a clear stone.  I have couple of pair of opal earrings that I love - both with cabochon stones.  The filigree pair was given to me by my colleagues when I left my state job and went into consulting (to the dark side, as some of them said) almost 20 years ago, and the other is a pair that I bought in Marblehead, MA as a souvenir when I attended my cousin's wedding.  

October's other birthstone is the tourmaline - and like opal  it is a
silicate, and comes in a rainbow of colors - but it has a more typical gemstone crystalline structure.   My favorite tourmalines are the "watermelon" ones, so named because of their combined pink and green colors.

This pair of watermelon baguettes is one of my go-to choices in the summer - just wearing them makes me happy.

So, if you know an October baby, and you want to get them some "pumpkin spice" - hop on over to my October birthstone Pinterest board and look for something shiny!
Tourmalines in the Gem Room at the Smithsonian

Until next time.

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