A gemstone from Australia, it is an exceptional one. The beauty of the opal is derived from flashes and patterns of different colours against a white or grayish background, a phenomenon called “play of colour” by gemmologists. It is the intensity and variety of these different colours that make opals more desirable, valuable and unique, as opals possess their lovely colour combination from nature without enhancement.
Opals contain approximately 10% water in their molecular structure, which plays a part in their magnificent display of colours. Unfortunately, it also affects their durability and contributes to their brittleness. Opals need not be stored in water or oil as commonly believed. However, some care should be taken when wearing opals to avoid sharp blows that could break them. Similarly, consumers should look for protective settings for their gems.
Opals may be kept in your jewellery box along with your other jewellery, provided you cushion them somewhat from being knocked or scratched.
October is also the month of tourmaline. Its name is derived from the Singhalese word “tura mali” meaning “stone with mixed colours”. Tourmaline is best known for displaying several colours in the same gemstone, from red to green and from blue to yellow. The reason, according to an old Egyptian legend, is that the tourmaline, on its journey up from the Earth’s centre, passed through a rainbow. In doing so, it assumed all the colours of the rainbow. Today, it is still referred to as the “gemstone of the rainbow”. One multi-colour variety is known as watermelon tourmaline, and features green, pink, and white colour bands. To resemble its namesake, the gemstone is cut into thin slices having a pink centre, white ring, and green edge.
Tourmaline has become a favourite among jewellery designers and gem collectors throughout the world. Since it is available in a wide variety of colours, it is ideally suited to almost anyone’s taste. Tourmaline is found in many localities including Brazil, Afghanistan, East Africa, and the USA.
* image courtesy the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA)