Tourmaline VS Opal – 3 Key Differences & How To Pick One

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If you’re an October baby or want to surprise someone born in October you’re definitely looking at opals and tourmalines, as those are the two birthstones for October. These gems are beautiful in their own way, and they will definitely impress whomever you want to gift them to. But which is better ? Which would work best for your situation ? Let’s take a look !

tourmaline opal

Tourmaline vs opal

Tourmaline is more expensive than opal and comes in many different colors, while opal has a limited color range but beautiful fire and play of color. Tourmalines are fit for daily wear but opals will easily scratch, and should be kept away from water or excessive moisture. Both gemstones are October birthstones and any of them can be worn.

You will have an easier time finding pre=made tourmaline jewelry than opal jewelry, simply because a good quality opal is rarer than a good quality tourmaline (regardless of color).

What is tourmaline ?

Tourmaline is a cyclosilicate crystal, and comes in many different colors depending on what trace elements are present. This gemstone was originally found in Sri Lanka centuries ago, but it is also mined in USA, Brazil, Nigeria, Mozambique, and Tanzania. Tourmaline isn’t as widely known as other gemstones (like sapphires or diamonds) but it’s one of the most versatile in terms of colors and it is very abundant.

What is opal ?

Opal is a type of hydrated silica, and it’s the water content in opal that sustains its color play. The average moisture in opal is usually around 6-10% and getting an opal wet will significantly reduce its color until it dries back up. Always keep opal away form water, or overly hot environments. The color play in an opal is due to slight differences in the crystal lattice, and how tightly the silica spheres are packed.

Now let’s take a closer look at these two gemstones compared. They both have their strong points, and if you’re looking to select just one, you’re likely curious how they differ.

1. Opal is more affordable than tourmaline

Perhaps the most basic difference between tourmaline and opal is their price tag. Tourmaline averages around $250 per carat, while exceptionally clear and well colored gems can go for as much as $500 per carat. Since we’re speaking of October birthstones, pink tourmaline is the one you’re looking for, and that is usually above the $250 mark for a good clarity and good color piece. That being said, you can still get tourmaline in a different color if pink isn’t your thing.

Read also: Why Does June Have 3 Birthstones ?

Meanwhile opal is far less, averaging around $45 per carat, for a decent body color and good color play. Usually you will find white or cream body opals, but black and blue body opals fetch a higher price as they show the play of color much better due to contrast. Unfortunately black and blue opals that are clear enough to allow color play are pretty rare.

As for fire opals, these are impressive in their color – a fiery, bright orange-red – but rarely show play of color.

2. Tourmaline is a harder gem than opal

Due to the way they’re formed, opal and tourmaline have different hardness levels and this matters quite a bit when you’re thinking of jewelry you want to wear every day.

Tourmaline has a hardness of 7-7.5, while opal averages at 6.5. All gemstones at 7 and above are fit for daily wear as they will not scratch as easily as those below 7. So your tourmaline will still scratch, but it will take some time for them to show. Opal on the other hand is not a good idea for daily wear.

But, you can wear opal as a pendant or a pair of earrings and still wear it every day. This way you’re keeping the gem out of harm’s way.

3. Opals have color play, tourmaline comes in many colors

There is a very big difference in the way opal and tourmaline bring color into your life. Tourmaline is like most other gems, in that it’s clear, can be faceted in any cut you like, and it will sparkle a bit. A classic colored gemstone, and it can sometimes come in two colors, such as pink-green (the most coveted bicolor), green-yellow, blue-green, purple-yellow, and so on. If you’re looking for a specific color – not just pink – you have a very wide range of colors to choose from.

Meanwhile opals have a range of different body colors – white, black, cream, pink, orange, blue – but the most interesting thing about them is their play of color. Now, some opals barely show a flash while some are incredible. Your chances of finding such an opal for sale are influenced by:

  • how the stone is formed, and how tightly packed the silica spheres are, which results in more or less flash
  • who cut the stone, as a skinned lapidary will reveal the best in an opal
  • what the body color is, as blue and black opal have the biggest contrast
  • how clear the opal is, since very opaque ones will often hide the colors

Still, most opals for sale will have at least some amount of color play to them. Beware of synthetic opals sold as real opals. A synthetic opal does not have the depth  of a real opal, and its colors are usually much too flashy so end up looking a bit much. That being said, you will have a difficult time finding a good opal unless you go to a dedicated jeweler who will source one for you.

Both tourmaline and opal are October birthstones

Tourmaline and opal are October birthstones, meaning they can both be worn by those born in October. Or, you don’t have to be born in October but instead have strong ties to this month, such as getting married or engaged in October, having your very first child in October, or having a similar major life even in that month.

If birthstone jewelry is the route you’re going you can easily find something that will fit into your style.

Can you wear opal and tourmaline together ?

Yes, tourmaline and opal can be worn together, but you may have to be careful about the type of jewelry you wear. If you have both tourmaline and opal set in the same ring, the tourmaline will look better for longer than the opal. So it’s best to go by opal’s hardness and opt for pendants or earrings for this combination.

Or, if simply want something very impressive for occasional wear you can get any jewelry piece, as long as it doesn’t get too much wear and tear.

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