tourmaline and opal

It’s October, which means that opals and tourmalines are all the rage! These lovely gems are October’s birthstones, and October babies are lucky to have them. Tourmaline sports a wide range of colors, while opals are full of glistening rainbows. Let’s dive in and learn more about why these two are favorites in the gemstone industry.

Opal comes from the Greek word “opallos” which means “to see a change.” Opal’s changing—better known as “play”—of color is so uniquely beautiful that Arabic mythology tells of how opals came to earth through lightning striking the ground.

Opals are mined in many places around the world: Australia, Idaho, Brazil, Nevada -to name a few. We source our opals from Mexico and Oregon. Mexico’s opal mine has some of the finest fire opals available. Just take a look at this Mexican opal, which has a striking play of color and is roughly 17 carats in weight. Oregon is also home to some of the best blue hyalite opals in the world.  We do specialize in the fine orange to flame red faceted opal from Mexico.  We cut fine gems from 2mm melee to 50 ct gems. 

Opal is mined first with light machinery and then by hand. Some mines use more traditional practices by digging a vertical shaft until opals are found. The ground is then excavated down to the opal layer. This method is done using shovels and  picks. The opal rich dirt is carried out and washed away to reveal the rough, gorgeous opals that we all know and love!

The opals that Columbia Gem House sells are not enhanced in any way, shape, or form. They are completely natural and rank between 5.5 and 6.0 on the Mohs scale -which makes them a more delicate gemstone.  Because of their softness, it’s good to take extra care of them and store any opal jewelry in cloth.

Like opal, tourmaline is one of the world’s most colorful gemstones, which might be why they’re both October’s birthstones. Because tourmaline’s color can look like other gemstones, it has been mistaken as such gems as emeralds or rubies and used in royal jewelry throughout history. Only much later was it discovered to be tourmaline!

We source our tourmaline rough from many locations. Our best stones come from one of the prime locations in Nigeria. These tourmalines are our favorite colors from Indicolite, rubelite and lovely shades of green. In addition we have beautiful Seafoams® and pinks that we brought out of Afghanistan over 20 years ago.  We cut all of the tourmaline we sell in our safe and comfortable workshop.

Tourmaline ranks 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale, which makes it great for daily wear. Most tourmaline is natural in color with the exception pink tourmaline. Pink tourmaline can sometimes be enhanced by exposure to radiation – this treatment is difficult to detect; and you can’t ever be sure whether it’s enhanced or not. That’s not too big of a deal though, as tourmaline is stable after treatment, meaning it doesn’t need any additional care. Sizes can range from 1mm all the way to 19mm, and our tourmalines are cut in a variety of shapes. Just check out this fancy concave cut -which shows just how stunning the pink tourmaline is. 

And there you have it! Learned anything new about tourmalines and opals? Want to see more of our beautiful opals and tourmalines? Check them out on our online store or head over to our Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to see more exclusive in-house pictures of our products.