October Birthstones: Tourmaline and Opal

October is another month with two birthstone choices, Tourmaline and Opal


Tourmaline has become a favorite gemstone among jewelry designer, and gem collectors the world over. Since it is available in a wide variety of colors, it is ideally suited to almost anyone’s taste. Tourmaline also is known for displaying several colors in the same gemstone.  These bi-color or tri-color gems are formed in many combinations; gemstones with clear color distinctions are highly prized.


Bvlgari Costa Smeralda necklace, set with rubellites, peridots, garnets, diamonds.

One multi-color variety is known as watermelon tourmaline, and features green, pink, and white colors bands; to resemble its namesake, the gemstone is cut into thin slices having a pink center, white ring, and green edge.


2014-11-12-leviev-high-jewelry-slideshow-opener3Leviev carved , watermelon tourmaline and diamond ring.

In this one-of-a-kind statement piece the breathtaking skill and artistic instincts of Leviev’s master jewelers are on full display. Handcrafted in 18-karat white gold, watermelon tourmaline is transformed into a stunning botanical form, seamlessly carved to create startlingly lifelike texture and a gorgeous sheen. At the center, a single rose-cut diamond and an array of smaller round-cut diamonds fan out with astonishing brilliance, while the underside is embellished with pavé for an unexpected dose of shine. Boasting 55.5 carats of diamonds and countless hours of craftsmanship, this museum-worthy piece is a priceless addition to any jewelry collection.

Tourmaline is found in many localities including Brazil, Afghanistan, East Africa, and the USA.


The name opal derives from the Greek Opallos, meaning ‘to see a change (of color)’.  Opals range in color from milky white to black with flashes of yellow, orange, green, red, and blue. An opal’s beauty is the product of contrast between its color play and its background.

cartier-platinum-ete-indien-ringCartier platinum Été Indien ring from the Étourdissant high jewellery collection featuring a 4.18ct oval-shaped, cabochon-cut opal, carved mandarin garnets, carved garnets, mandarin garnet beads, round-cut tsavorite garnets, and brilliant-cut diamonds.

Opal is a formation of non-crystalline silica gel that seeped into crevices in the sedimentary strata. Through time and nature’s heating and molding processes, the gel hardened into the form of opals.


Erica Courtney Cupcake Ring features a 7.41-carat Brazilian crystal opal with a diamond surround set in 18k gold

Of all the precious gemstones, opal is perhaps the most alluring.  A unique mixture of silica and varying amounts of water, opal’s brilliant play of color is the result of tiny silicon spheres measuring several hundred nanometers in diameter, the same width as the wavelength of visible light. What makes an opal precious and another nonprecious is how those spheres are organized:

The opal is composed of particles closely packed in spherical arrangements. When packed together in a regular pattern, a three-dimensional array of spaces are created that give opal its radiance.


Goshwara opal bead 12 strand tassel ‘Art Deco style’ earrings in 18k with diamonds and onyx 

Once considered the most prized precious stones by European royals, opals were traditionally given as favors in the 1800s.  Even Napoleon adored the stone, giving his wife, Josephine, a vivid red opal weighing roughly 140 grams.  The first opal to be named, ‘The Burning of Troy’ was aptly labeled since Napoleon had said that he gave her this stone because she was his Helen.  In spite of such royal favor, the opal is the only one thought to bring bad luck. This notion swept the opinions of nineteenth-century Europe after the great success of the ghost novel ‘Anne of Geierstein’ by Sir Walter Scott, in which a drop of holy water turns a supernatural opal talisman into a common pebble and soon after which the heroine dies.  So convinced of this superstition was Princess Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII, that when Queen Victoria died, the new queen removed the ‘unlucky opals’ from the diamond and opal tiara her mother-in-law had commissioned and replaced them with rubies from Ceylon, which remain there today.

le-vian-18k-honey-gold-ring-with-a-42-19-spumoni-opalLe Vian 18k ‘Honey Gold’ ring with a 42.19 ‘Spumoni’ opal

Quite possibly the most famous opal in history was owned by a Roman senator named Nonius in 35 BC. Originating from the mines of Czernowitza, the only source for opals at the time, the fabled stone was only the size of a hazelnut yet was valued at two million sesterces, or enough to buy a villa in a nice part of Rome. So obsessed with the stone was Mark Antony that the amount of pressure he applied to Nonius, who had no intentions to part with the stone, to sell it to him caused Nonius to self-imposed exile, leaving behind all his property and taking only his precious opal. Even Pliny, the famous Roman author, called opal a gemstone which combines the best possible characteristics of the most beautiful of gemstones: the fine sparkle of Almandine, the shining purple of Amethyst, the golden yellow of Topaz, and the deep blue of Sapphire, so that all colours shine and sparkle together in a beautiful combination.

lisa-nik-asymmetric-opal-and-diamond-earrings-in-18k-rose-gold-with-diamondsLisa Nik asymmetric opal and diamond earrings in 18k rose gold with diamonds

Today, roughly 97% of opals come from Australia, and of all the opal produced in the world 60% is white opal, 30% is crystal opal, 8% black opal and 2% boulder opal. The town of Coober Pedy, which means ‘white man in a hole’ in Aborigine, produces a major amount of opal, however, the mines in Mintabie and Lightning Ridge produce the rarer, more valuable black opal. The ‘white’ or ‘black’ of an opal refers to the stone’s body color on which the ‘flashes of light and color’ play, with the black offering the most brilliant play of color. Much detail has gone into valuing black opals, even so far as differentiating the seemingly endless types of patterns. The more vivacious and bright the play of color, the more valuable the opal.

In honor of October’s birthstone, I have put together some of the most beautiful opals ever seen and the most famous ones ever recorded.  Consider this my birthday gift to all those born in the month of October.

September Birthstone: Sapphire

Sapphire, the September birthstone, has been popular since the Middle Ages and, according to folklore, will protect your loved ones from envy and harm.  Medieval clergy wore sapphires to symbolize heaven, while commoners thought the gem attracted heavenly blessings.

Cartier Sapphire Blue GIF

Blue sapphire engagement represent loyalty and devotion. As such, sapphires are a stunning and particularly meaningful choice for bridal jewelry. September’s birthstone is formed in a wide range of colors, from the popular blue to more unusual pink, yellow and purple. Blue sapphires range from very light to very dark greenish or violetish blue, as well as various shades of pure blue.  The most prized colors are a medium to medium dark blue or slightly violetish blue. At 9 on the Mohs scale, diamonds are at 10, they are the third hardest mineral and are therefore durable. This means they can be worn daily, as long as they are cared for over time.

pair-of-sapphire-and-diamond-earclips-Van-Cleef-Arpels.pngEach centering a heart-shaped sapphire within a lozenge-shaped surround of tapered baguette and round brilliant-cut diamonds; each signed Van Cleef & Arpels; estimated total sapphire weight: 3.20 carats; estimated total diamond weight: 2.30 carats; mounted in eighteen karat gold; length: 11/16in.

Mauboussin Sapphire Ruby Diamond Yellow Gold Ring

A beautiful diamonds, sapphire, rubies and 18 k yellow gold ring. Signed Mauboussin. Sapphire weight: 3,74 cts.

sapphire-and-diamond-brooch-Van-Cleef-Arpels.pngDesigned as a flower, the petals of invisibly-set sapphires, with round brilliant-cut diamond cluster stamen, baguette-cut diamond stem and pavé-set diamond leaves; signed Van Cleef & Arpels. Estimated total sapphire weight: 15.75 carats; estimated total diamond weight: 3.30 carats; mounted in platinum and eighteen karat gold; length: 2 1/8in.


With true elegance, a vivid blue sapphire, 0,30 cts, is set in a dazzling platinum and diamond halo.


Centering a cut-cornered rectangular-cut sapphire, weighing 24.16 carats, with baguette and single-cut diamond scrolling shoulders and a bifurcated mount; mounted in fourteen karat white gold

Sapphire is a variety of the gem species corundum and occurs in all colors of the  rainbow.  Pink, purple, green, orange, or yellow corundum are known by their color (pink sapphire, green sapphire).  Ruby is the red variety of corundum.

by Jean Amr

May Birthstone: Emerald

As the birthstone for May, the emerald, a symbol of rebirth, is believed to grant the owner foresight, good fortune, and youth. Emerald, derived from the word smaragdus, meaning green in Greek, was mined in Egypt as early as 330 B.C. Today, most of the world’s emeralds are mined in Colombia, Brazil, Afghanistan, and Zambia.

Van Cleef & Arpels Emerald Salimah Aga KhanFrom the former collection of princess Salimah Aga Khan, Van Cleef & Arpels Indian-style yellow gold, melon carved emeralds, diamond necklace, 1970 (Click photo to enlarge).

Van Cleef & Arpels. A Gold, Diamond and Carved Emerald Ring.jpg

Van Cleef & Arpels, 18kt yellow gold, diamond and carved emerald ring

Emerald and diamond “Camellia” brooch by Van Cleef and Arpels, circa 1975

Emerald and diamond ‘Camellia’ brooch by Van Cleef and Arpels, circa 1975 (Click photo to enlarge).

art-deco-emerald-and-diamond-ring-circa-1925.pngCentering a rectangular carved emerald with baguette, single, triangular and fancy-shaped diamond shoulders, completed by a plain mount; estimated total diamond weight: 2.70 carats; mounted in platinum; size 5 1/4

Antique Emerald Melon Pumpkin Cut Chain YakymourAntique Indian melon carved emerald necklace (Privat collection) (Click photo to enlarge).


The availability of high-quality emerald is limited; consequently, treatments to improve clarity are performed regularly.

by Jean Amr