The birthstone for October is the opal, which are prized for their iridescent and ever-changing appearance. Opals are often used in jewelry, including rings, earrings, and pendants, to showcase their vibrant colors. Opals are unique gemstones known for their stunning play-of-color, which can include a wide range of hues like blues, greens, pinks, and yellows. Play-of-color is defined as “a pseudo chromatic optical effect resulting in flashes of colored light from certain minerals, as they are turned in white light.” The internal structure of precious opal causes it to diffract light, resulting in play-of-color. Depending on the conditions in which it formed, opal may be transparent, translucent, or opaque, and the background color may be white, black, or nearly any color of the visual spectrum. Black opal is considered the rarest, while white, gray, and green opals are the most common.
The name opal is believed to be derived from the Sanskrit word upala (उपल), which means ‘jewel’, and later the Greek derivative opállios (ὀπάλλιος). It has been reported that Northern African opal was used to make tools as early as 4000 BC. The first published report of gem opal from Ethiopia appeared in 1994, with the discovery of precious opal in the Menz Gishe District, North Shewa Province. The opal, found mostly in the form of nodules, was of volcanic origin and was found predominantly within weathered layers of rhyolite. In the Middle Ages, opal was considered a stone that could provide great luck because it was believed to possess all the virtues of each gemstone whose color was represented in the color spectrum of the opal. It was also said to grant invisibility if wrapped in a fresh bay leaf and held in the hand.
In addition to opal, some sources also consider tourmaline, particularly the pink tourmaline, as an alternative birthstone for October. Both stones are celebrated for their beauty and are believed to bring various positive qualities to those born in October.
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