What is Opal and where is it found?
It is recognised as the traditional birthstone for October , but others may suggest Tourmaline as a newer gemstone for the month. The two birthstones however come in endless colour combinations.
The Opal birthstone is found in many places but predominantly Australia as this is the most productive place in the world for Opal. Other important places are where opal is found are Mexico, Ethiopia, and Brazil. But other deposits are found in Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Peru, Turkey, United States and Europe.
The name Opal is widely believed to have originated in India as “Upala” which meads precious stone. But has many names from different places. Greeks called it Opallios which means “colour change. In ancient Rome it was called “Opalus” meaning a stone made up of many elements and has been described by many as a stone like fireworks, lightening or galaxies etc.
It is formed primarily by rainwater carrying silica, a dissolved mineral from the ground into the cracks and crevices of the rock.
Opal is a shimmering gemstone of many colours and is usually given to celebrate the 14th wedding anniversary. It is also considered as the gemstone for those born in October. It is not actually attached to any Zodiac sign but has a strong affinity to those born under the zodiac sign of Cancer.
The shimmer is caused by small areas of silica that create interference and refraction within the stone. These areas dissect the light through the stone causing the shimmer of colour. The shimmer of colour therefore is always different as the light dissects through it at any given time.
Types of Opal
The finer Opal has a continuous shimmer of different colours within it, and this is known as Opalising. These stones are known as Precious Opal. This makes the opalising Opal very expensive. Opals that do not opalise are known as the Common Opal, an example is the Pink Opal.
White Opals are known by the white to light grey colour, usually found in South Australia.
Black Opals are highly sought after and the most expensive Opals. They are known by the dark grey black colour which makes the opalising effect of the stone to be vivid. New South Wales in Australia is known to produce some of the finest black opals.
Boulder Opals form within another rock and the display of colour is against the colour of the rock it is embedded in. They are very unique and are also found in Australia.
Crystal Opals have a transparent or translucent body and are also found in Australia and Brazil.
Jelly Opals are also a type of crystal opal but look jelly like but mostly seem like coloured water.
White Common Opals are white or light coloured with a milky appearance. They do not have the opalising effect but are still considered beautiful.
Mexican Fire Opals are a vibrant orange or yellow colour. They are well known for this intense vibrancy and the main source are found in Mexico.
Peruvian Opals are found mainly in Peru and are known for the smooth cut appearance. They are often used as cabochons in jewellery.
Synthetic Opals are lab created opals manufactured to replicate the appearance of these natural occurring opals. They can display some degree of the opalising effect but just are not natural opals.
The physical characteristics of Opal
The most important characteristic is the opalising effect of the stone. It is a silica stone which has water content which varies from stone to stone. It is the water content that plays a part in the opalising effect.
Opals are considered as soft gemstones. The hardness is about 5.5 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale. This means they can scratch or break easily.
In summary opals are characterized by the unique display of colour in each stone. They are considered one of the most prized stones because of this beautiful iridescence.
The value of the Opal gemstone.
The most popular expensive opals are considered as the white/ light opal, grey/dark opal, and the black opal. But opals can still be further dived by body colour, the pattern and the location of the stone.
The price of Opal depends on the shimmer of opalising effect of the stone. The Black/Dark Grey have the most opalising effect and as such are very expensive.
The next expensive is Crystal Opal
White or milky Opals are the cheapest.
Why wear the opal gemstone?
Opal has many meanings which are interpreted in various ways. Europeans have always thought of Opal as a symbol of purity, hope and truth.
White Opals if worn are considered to help one find true love, restore peace to the soul and to help promote happiness. They are also thought to protect the wearer from harm.
It is said to assist in healing the wearer from old wounds, anger, or fear. It is said to connect the wearer to angels and good spirits who will
guide the wearer.
The Black opal is said to have the same properties as the white opal, but it also brings good luck and power to the wearer.
Health wises, it is said that people with heart or eye problems benefit from wearing the stone as it helps to alleviate the symptoms.
How to care for your Opal gemstone
Opal stones should not be stored away as they need air. Storing away deprives the stone of air and also increases its heat. Without air and light they can become dry and crack. The opalising effect will also fade if stored away for long. Clean your opal gemstone using a soft brush or cloth to wipe with warm soapy water. It is not advisable to immerse in water.