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. 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. 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.
It is said that precious opal, with its display of fire, can spark creativity, and that the "dance" of its fire can help people enjoy their lives. The light-colored stones have long been associated with helping people become less visible to others and also in improving eyesight. The gemstone has been associated with the sacral chakra, imbalances of which can cause problems with addictions. Some believe that opal can help moderate and harmonize sexual desires.
Opals come in three natural varieties: the opalescent precious opal, the fire opal (yellow to red-orange), and the generally opaque common opal. A French manufacturer, Gilson, created the first "opalescent" imitation opal in 1973. The natural opals are non-crystalline gemstones that can contain up to 30% water. They are actually a hardened silica gel. It's possible for them to dry out and crack, and they are relatively soft and fragile gemstones. They rank between 5.5-6.5 on the Mohs' hardness scale.
The precious opals display a unique opalescence. Depending on the angle of view, rainbow-like flashes of different colors appear, caused by light reflecting off of extremely small spheres of cristobalite within the silica gel. The phenomenon is called interference. The flashing of color is called "fire" or "play of light." The precious opals appear in a range of white to black (usually dark gray, green or blue backgrounds).
Fire opal is named for its color and does not display opalescence. It can range in color from yellow to red. It is usually milky, but the best examples can be transparent.
Mineral Information: hardened silica gel with water content
Chemical Composition: SiO2-nH2O
Color: transparent to opaque, all colors
Specific Gravity: 1.98-2.20
Refractive Index: 1.450
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. 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. Tourmaline is found in many localities including Brazil, Afghanistan, East Africa, and the USA.
Tourmaline is renowned as the gem of sensitive poets and creative artists. Shakespeare even had a small collection of tourmaline jewelry to help him overcome writer's block. Tourmaline is believed to inspire creativity and was used extensively as a talisman by artists and writers during the renaissance through the late 1800s. Perhaps this gemstone is believed to encourage artistic imagination because it has many faces and can express every mood though color.
The rarest member of the tourmaline family is pink tourmaline. In fact, it is even rarer that a ruby! The Empress Dowager Tz'u-hsi (tzoo-she), the last Empress of China, adored and avidly collected pink tourmaline. During her lifetime, she bought nearly a ton of it from the Himalaya Mine in California, USA. When she died, she was laid to rest among all her jewels, and her head was set upon a prized pillow of carved pink tourmaline.
When heated or rubbed, tourmaline acquires an electric charge and attracts small objects like dust, ashes and other lightweight objects. This phenomenon is called piezoelectricity (pay-zoh-electricity), and it is considered a unique property. The first documented record of piezoelectricity is in the early 18th century.
In addition to its use in jewelry, tourmaline has been employed in pressure devices because of its piezoelectric properties. It has been used in sonar apparatus and other devices that detect and measure variables of pressure, too.
Because of its electric charge capabilities, the demand for tourmaline increased during WWII for the production of pressure sensitive gauges for submarine sonar instrumentation as well as other war equipment became significant.
The pink tourmaline status as the October birthstone is shared with the opal, and there are many unique metaphysical properties for each member of the tourmaline gemstone family. The piezoelectric property of the stone can help polarize people's emotions and energy with a magnetic-electric charge that appears when the crystal is rubbed or heated.
All colors of tourmaline are very powerful. Each person seems to have a different reaction to tourmaline. Pink tourmaline represents a love of humanity and humanitarianism. It is worn to promote sympathy towards others. It is an excellent stone for healers and counselors because it promotes better listening and understanding. It carries the virtue of unconditional love and friendship. In fact, pink tourmaline radiates the highest amount of love of all the different colored tourmalines.
It's also for people who bear a broken heart as it encourages love and gently disperses emotional pain and dissolves disruptive feelings. It calms the negative emotions that upset relationships.
Pink tourmaline is highly valued by people that have difficulty dealing with fear and suffer from panic attacks or are in need of something to help them heal their inner chaos and dread.
Luxurious tourmaline is also considered an aphrodisiac. It helps people realize when it is safe to love and helps overcome sorrow or traumatic memories so confidence to try again may grow. It introduces the presence of compassion and wisdom when dealing with others because it promotes flexibility of thought and open-mindedness.
Watermelon tourmaline has been said to be a stone of reconciliation, a stone that fosters compassion and cool headedness, radiates the energy that attracts money, healing and friendship while stabilizing, grounding and reaffirming our Earth roots.
Blue tourmaline creates a commitment towards the completion of one's goals and is said to protect the wearer against dangers.
Black tourmaline repels negative energy. It is suggested to carry this stone when you feel surrounded by negativity, and it is great for use in times of crisis or extreme stress. It will protect the wearer until they are strong enough in on their own power by breaking through old patterns and fears and cultivating inner wisdom, courage, stability and patience.
Red tourmaline builds inner strength and wisdom because it unites the heart and body in love and passion. It also brings joy, openness, emotional stability, compassion and devotion.
Though tourmaline has been found in parts of Africa and Europe, the most prominent mine locations are established in North and South America.
Many tourmaline crystals exhibit polarity- the crystal has a different charge at either end of the crystal, making it naturally magnetic.
It is not uncommon for minute cracks to be filled in with resin or plastic to improve durability and appearance.
Tourmaline comes in a wide family of varieties. The red colors are called rubellite and blues colors are indicolite. Other colored tourmaline names are verdite for green, dravite for browns, achroite for the rare colorless tourmalines, schorl for the most common black tourmaline and paraiba, which is a rare variety of vivid green.
Different colors of tourmaline are often confused with different gemstones. A few of these gemstones are iolite, topaz, citrine, amethyst, spinel, ruby, emerald, smoky quartz, aquamarine and tsavorite garnet.
Mineral Properties of Tourmaline
Mineral Information: Aluminum borate silicate
Chemical Composition: (NaLiCa)(Fe11MgMnAl)3A16((OH)4(BO3)3Si6)18)
Color: Most commonly black, but can range from brown, gold, blue, violet, green, pink, or in a dual-colored pink and green.
Hardness: 7 - 7 1/2
Specific Gravity: 3.02-3.26
Refractive Index: 1.616-1.652
Don't store tourmaline with harder gemstones or other materials that might rub against it and cause damage. As with all gems, protect tourmaline from scratches and sharp blows that could shatter it. Also, avoid large temperature changes that can cause the crystal to fracture (such as leaving it near a heater vent or in a hot car).
Do not clean tourmaline in a home ultrasonic cleaner. Tourmaline jewelry can be cleaned with a mild solution of gentle dishwashing detergent and water at home. Soak the stone for 10-20 minutes, then wipe gently but firmly with a wash towel.
**Please note that all metaphysical or healing properties listed are collected from various sources. This information is offered as a service and not meant to treat medical conditions.