“The earth writes its memoir in each opal”
“My favorite color is October”
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers”
October is here and I think all the wonderful October quotes may have something to do with the amazing birthstone it holds. Opals are a freak of nature, literally. The “play of color” that makes them unique is the phenomena that happens when light hits an opal and a colorful display of iridescent hues radiate from its core. This amazing occurrence leaves most of us mesmerized and wanting more. That is why some opals even have a higher price tag than some diamonds.
History of the Opal
Opallios is the Greek word for Opals meaning "To see a change of color". The Roman word for Opal is "Opalus" meaning precious stone. The ancient Greeks believed that opals were formed from the tears of joy wept by Zeus when he defeated the titans, and that the opal bestowed prophetic powers. The ancient Romans considered it a symbol of hope and good fortune. Australian native Aborigines tell us that opal is our creator’s footprint, that touched the Earth at the base of a rainbow to bring harmony.
Also, a roman scholar in 75AD summed up our beautiful opal saying: “Some opals carry such a play within them that they equal the deepest and richest colors of painters. Others…simulate the flaming fire of burning sulphur and even the bright blaze of burning oil.” He marveled that this kaleidoscopic gem encompassed the red of ruby, the green of emerald, the yellow of topaz, the blue of sapphire, and the purple of amethyst. This is why Opal is commonly called the Queen of Gemstones.
Where do Opals come from?
Opal has been found on Mars! It is one of only a handful of gemstones that have ever been discovered outside of our planet. There is some conjecture on how this gemstone is made, but many believe it is formed when water from rain seeps down into crevasses in the rock. Once the water evaporates, the silica that is left behind dries out and hardens into precious opal. This theory makes sense considering opal has water in it. The water content of an opal can be upwards of 20 percent but is usually in the 5 percent range. No matter how this miraculous stone is formed, it is near and dear to the hearts of so many. Even Queen Victoria’s favorite gemstone was Opal!
It is estimated that nearly 95 percent of the world's opal comes from Australia. (Other countries that commonly mine opals include Ethiopia, Brazil, and Mexico). Thankfully, you don’t have to endure a 21-hour flight to Australia to get your birthstone or your favorite colorful miracle stone. Check out a few of these treasures - click here.
Types of Opals
Within the precious opal family, there are many different varieties of opal. Each has their own unique color combinations and character traits. Opals can be found orange, yellow, red, green, blue, or purple. Black Opals are considered one of the rarest gemstones, though they too can be a variety of dark colors. Boulder opal is the only opal that can display the entire rainbow within one stone. That's at least seven colors if you count indigo. Opals that have the most intense and diverse play of color are generally the most expensive and prized. Synthetic opals have been on the market since the 1970s. Natural opals have also been sliced and adhered to onyx and other gem material to give the illusion of a bigger, dark, more expensive opal. The "doublets" are more susceptible to harm if they are submerged in liquids for long periods of time.
How Fragile are they?
Opals rank 5.5 to 6.5 out of 10 on Mohs Scale of Hardness. They have about the same fragility as glass. So when you wear your prized opals just remember this comparison. Wearing them in earrings or in a necklace are a safe way to be able to enjoy them daily. When you store them, make sure they are not coming into contact with other jewelry pieces. Other pieces could scratch, crack, or chip the opals just with a slight encounter or ding. They are certainly more fragile than the other birthstones. However, with proper care, they should hold up well.
Other Fun Facts
- Opal is the official gemstone gift for the 14th wedding anniversary
- Opals got the rap of being “bad luck” simply because they are fragile (no other superstition is attached to them).
- The gemstone is revered as a symbol of hope, fidelity, and purity.
- Opals were particularly popular in the Art Deco era, when gemstone artists preferred them to all other stones.
- The “Virgin Rainbow” is one of the world’s rarest and most expensive opals. It literally glows in the dark. In fact, as it gets darker around the opal, the opal appears ever more vibrant. Its value is over $1 million!
We are big fans of the opal and would love to help you find one too! Give us a call, send us a message, or drop by today and start your search for that one of a kind opal jewelry piece.