Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Many Colors of October's Birthstone


Traditionally, October's Birthstone is Opal.  And, being me, I am certain that when jewelers got together to decide this, they meant the Australian Opal which comprises over 90% of the world's supply. 

But, opal, being a form of silica with certain properties making it refract light, also come in a myriad of other forms, colors and degrees of 'flash'.  

Australian Opal comes in two main forms:  light and dark.  Generally gem quality opal is considered the light with the million plays of light opal is so well known for.  When I bought my first full strand of opal at the Tuscon Bead Show  (jewelry designers, you probably know this show lasts about a month and has vendors from all over the world) the guy who sold it to me explained that opals in Australia (He called them Ridge Opals, meaning they come from a certain mine) are all in the same family, even the same rock formations; just growing in different parts of the 'cave'.

I went with the dark Opals, and came up with this simple Design:

She sold pretty slowly, because Opals are often expensive.  (This necklace was $152, the wholesale cost of the beads was a staggering $120).

But, when we think outside the box on gifts for October Birthdays, Opals can be gorgeous, and come in a variety of colors and textures.  

The second most well known Opals are from Mexico, generally from one mine in QuerĂ©taro.  The opals come in a varitety of colors that look like fire.  Absolutely Stunning!
These lovely earrings were designed by angryhairjewelry on Etsy
As you see in the design above, by angryhairjewelry on Etsy, Fire Opals from Mexico really do look like fire.  And, are firmly within the realm of a gift of opals for an October birthday. They also have the added bonus of coordinating well for Halloween.

Other lesser known opals are from Ethiopa and Peru. 

Pink Opal from Peru is one of my all time favorite stones.  Mostly because I love, love love the color pink, but usually do not openly admit it.  I guess that dirty little secret is blown now.
Sea of Love Mismatched Pink Opal and Aquamarine Earrings by Tara at AstridLily
These lovely pink opal and moss aquamarine earrings were designed by Tara at AstridLily on Etsy.  Aquamarine is actually the birthstone for March, so these could actually do double duty, suppose you have a mother who was born in October and who has a child born in March?  What a wonderful statement to make when giving her this gift.

The following is the blue version of peruvian opal: similar in transparency as the pink, but the peacock or robins egg blue this opal comes in is just divine for gift-giving.

This lovely Blue Peruvian Boho necklace was designed by Alexis at AnnikaLane on Etsy
Note how timeless, yet trendy the necklace is, and since Blue Peruvian Opal comes in many shades of blue, this piece will go with most anything.  The Peruvian blue doesn't have the multicolored 'flash' of the Australian Opal -- but rather has varying degrees of transparency [to opaqueness] even in a given strand. Still, it's most difficult to get the richness of the variation in blues in a photograph.


Ethiopian Opals are very similar to Australian Opals upon appearance, except they seem to be a little more milky than the flashy translucence of Australian Opals.  Absolutely lovely and a wonderful alternative for birthstone gifts. 

Welo Ethiopian Pendant by DestinyGenuineGems on Etsy
Note the pendent above has all the flash and fire of Australian Opal, but is a little more opaque.  It's also a reasonable price, for such flash.

One of the least recognized as opal, but still an opal nonetheless, is Boulder Opal, which usually comes in earthy tones of greens and browns, but can also be other colors like blue
This Oregon Boulder Opal is an earthy brown, green, black and golden hue, from Oregon.  The milky parts are the actual full-bodied opal, as opal is a water stone. 
 Most opals have between 3 and 14 percent water, but that amount can go up to about 20 percent.  This means that opals sometimes want a little bath to stay hydrated and not shrink or crack.  Sudden changes in temperature can also cause Opals to crack.  Do not wash Opals in jewelry cleaner or dish detergent, as they absorb liquids. And finally do not store in a dehumidified room without proper precautions such as keeping the opal in a zip tight back with a scrap of moistened cloth.

Now for those of you who are interested in the mystical aspects of Opal,  I will write about that tomorrow, in a separate post.  However, it should be known, Opal is a pretty emotional stone, how could it not be with all that fire and color?

Happy Shopping for those October Birthdays!

~Maggie~

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