Octobers Birthstones-Tourmaline & Opal

 Opals And Tourmalines – A Plethora Of Colours!

The October birthstone,  Opal and  Tourmaline are the most radiant gems in the market. Both stones exhibit a vibrant spectrum of colours, lending charm and beauty to any jewellery they are fashioned in. These dual coloured gems are prized across the world and are in high demand for their unique hue combinations and crystal structures.

The Opal was a symbol of and hope to the ancient Romans. The people of the Orient christened the Opal, ‘Anchor of Hope’. Others believed the Opal fell from the heavens when lightning struck the Earth. According to legend, the Opal was believed to make its wearer invisible and was a popular talisman of spies and thieves. The stone has a unique property in changing colour, believed to indicate the health and mental state of the wearer.  The October birthstone is associated with purity, innocence, hope and faith.
October has a second birthstone, the Tourmaline. Tourmalines are a relatively recent discovery and assignment. Due to its recent unveiling, the stone lacks an interesting background, lore, myths and legend. This gemstone however, is known as the ‘Peace Stone’, believing to dispel anger, fear, jealousy and aggressiveness to keep the wearer calm and tranquil. Besides peace and progress, the stone is believed to enhance creativity of its wearer.

The tourmaline is a very interesting gemstone. When warmed or rubbed, this stone attracts ash, bits of paper and lint. This happens since the gem is charged with static electricity when rubbed. The tourmaline is accorded a place of honour in its part in the studies and experiments with electricity conducted by Benjamin Franklin.
According to legend, Cleopatra is said to have worn a magnificent set of opals to attract Mark Anthony, ruler of Rome. Queen Victoria was a passionate collector of the gemstones, one of the many rulers who wore crowns encrusted with the gems to protect them against evil and enemies.
Contrary to popular belief, the Russians believed that the Opal represented the evil eye. The rulers of Russia were steadfastly against using the stone in any form of jewelry.

Other nations believed that the opal was considered a gemstone that brought immense fortune on the wearer as the stone possessed the virtues of each gemstone whose colour was captured by the Opal’s spectrum of colours.As a result the stone was considered lucky.

The word opal is derived from the Roman term ‘Opalus’. Some believe the word was derived from ‘Ops’, wife of Saturn, the Goddess of fertility. Other references indicate the term was derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Upala’.

The word tourmaline is believed to have been derived from the Singhalese word ‘Toramalli’, meaning ‘something out of the Earth’. The Sri Lankan term is applied to all green, brown or yellow stones.

Below are two rings I just completed to celebrate October
On the left a large 10mm round Welo opal set in 9ct yellow gold -an incredible stone that flashes orange,yellow,green and red.
On the right a large Green to orange Catseye tourmaline (@ 12mm across ) in rose gold with Pave diamond shoulders.
Both are one of a kind and available to purchase.


“How long does it take to make a ring?”
Easy answer is “As long as it takes”
It’s actually difficult for me to pin point the exact time it takes to create each ring, some are complex ,others are simple ,and some are just a right pains in the [email protected]@ from the very beginning.
Sometimes things don’t cast properly and I have to remake them ,or occasionally I succumb to human error and somehow make the wrong size ,or do something just as silly.
Creating jewellery by hand is always challenging -it never gets EASY!
But I like it that way ,if things were too easy ,I would get complacent ,or worse still -bored!
Back to the question “How long does it take,Deb?”
So here I break down of my typical week
In the studio at around 9am to start on the weeks orders .
I tend to work on a group of rings at a time-anywhere from 6 to @ 10 max -anymore than that and it’s too much work.
I pull out the notes on each job, read through them carefully carving and  creating an individual wax for each ring ,which is then sprued and set aside ready for casting.
In eight or so hours we may get 8-10 waxes done ,ready for casting the next day.
Continue with orders or make some stock items from pieces cast over the past few weeks.
Because I am not really a collections based jeweller (that would get incredibly dull ) ,I often head to my gem boxes and start with the gems first choosing what stone for what combination eg: A rose gold crown setting on a wide silver band with a cobalt spinel perhaps?
I never quite know what I will end up with when I start on stock rings, sometimes what I originally envision changes  completely by the time the item is finished.
Obviously custom work is completely different as I am constantly referring to mine and the customers notes ,recalling our conversations and the whole “feel” we are after eg: not too bulky, not too wide ,brushed or shiny flush or grain set .
I then line up the combinations ready for soldering(with a big gas torch) and tend to solder 8-10 in a row .
Even 15 years on, some days soldering goes like a dream, other days  nothing seems to “run” properly on those days you just have to walk away and say “let’s try again tomorrow!”
Most evenings after dinner I answer emails ,messages, post on social media ,quote jobs,
test gold from remodelling jobs ,photograph old gold for remodelling jobs ,send invoices, it does’n’t really stop out of the studio!
All the work I soldered yesterday is ready to be “cleaned up”.
Starting with a very course bastard files I file the top layer of metal off the bands of the rings and any rough bits from soldering around the ring tops-they have no stones/gems in them as yet, they are just empty little vessels, all charred and black looking.
I check all the joins thoroughly and re solder if necessary .
After the initial “rough up” I then work with smaller needle files from a course grade to a finer grade ,moving the ring around ,smoothing rough patches.
After filing comes sanding ,I use  pieces of sandpaper working in one direction smoothing the metal. Grade after grade is used from 80 grit through to 1200 grit, paying special attention to the joins  ,needless to say I go through [email protected] of sandpaper!
Larger areas on the back of the rings can be done on the bench grinder, mine is nothing fancy a good old Ryobi workhorse called “Rob” with spindels attached on either end to take flap-wheels *
(compressed sandpaper/emery paper grit buffs).
This saves me hours ,although my fingers and nails unfortunately take the brunt of this.
Often after a day on the grinder my thumb pads are  worn and bleeding and my nails are filed in weird directions!
Normally whilst I am doing the outside of the rings ,Hubby Dean is grinding out the interiors.
I am a firm believer my rings must be as nice on the inside as they are on the outside so we work these just as hard.
The rings are now ready for polishing ,I change the flap-wheels to buffs and use a polishing compound to cut and polish them to perfection.I repeat this process with 3 different compounds so they are smooth like silk.
It’s very dirty and messy, even with a respirator on and the extraction unit going,I still get manage to get covered in black grime!
The rings are then cleaned in an ultrasonic bath.
It’s 3pm now and I realise I have an appointment down at the shop at 3:15pm ,so quickly wash my face and scream down for that.
The Monday’s waxes have been cast so it’s clean up and file, sand and repeat.
I get Dean on onto sprue removal whilst I decide which rings finished yesterday will be ‘set”(the gems put in-and no we do not glue them in ,as a lady last weekend asked in t the shop) by us or couriered to one of two setters we use who set the more complex jobs for us.
We do set a lot in house ( husband Dean does much more  than me!)
Gem setting is actually a completely different trade to jewellery ,and finding a good setter can make or break your work ,so I totally treasure the two that I use (Adele and Dave if you are reading this!).
It takes many, many years of training and practise to be a good setter .In another newsletter I will go into detail about setting a bit more ,but just so you know all those little gems set into my “scattered” gem style of work can take 20-30 minutes each to set .
The courier delivers last weeks lot of rings from our setters .I re polish them all till they are pristine then photograph them ,invoice them ,send off to their forever home or pack up ready for the shop tomorrow.
I then realise I should make a few earrings and necklaces ,but by Friday  afternoon I need a break  (wine) because I will be at the shop all day Saturday and possibly Sunday ,so they are put on the back burner till till next week (Yet again..Lol!)

This video shows me at work!