Opals – Magical to the sight and lovable to style, opals have been reigning the gemstone world since ages. Their stunning iridescent nature makes them fabulously special, displaying a hypnotizing play of different colours. Filled with mysticism, there is so much you need to know and learn about these beautiful stones. We bring you a detailed source that answers all your questions about this gorgeous gem. Read on to know more:
With spell-casting iridescence and smooth shapes, opals have been the loved and popular stones since times immemorial. They have been prized and treasured for their excellent playing colours, gorgeously sparkling and blending under the glass-like smoothness. Known to be gems of wonder, they’re embellished in some of the best jewellery ideas. The best feature of these gems is their diversity. You’ll find it incredibly difficult-to-impossible, to find two specimens that look exactly alike each other. Every specimen of this variety is different and better than the other. Here, in this article, we tell you all there is to know about this show-stopping, breath-taking jewel of wonders! Read on to know more:
Origin and Supply of Opal
Origin of the name of opal is still considered to be uncertain. However, it is known to be adapted from the Sanskrit word “upala,” which is for “precious stone.” Another adaptation of the word comes from Latin origins, for the word “opalus.” Because of its impressive and unique colours, it has been always associated with something divine and blessed. For the same reason, ancient Romans believed that the stone had magical healing powers and considered it to be a stone of hope and purity. The gem was discovered roughly 4000 years ago and since then has been a favourite among all gemstone connoisseurs and jewellery designers.
As about the current market, about 90% or more of circulating opal has been sourced from Australia, which has the biggest known reservoirs of the gem. From over a hundred years, Australia has been giving us the best and the most specimens of this gem. However, important discoveries of the gem have been made in Ethiopia, too. These are not the only places over the globe that supply us with this incredible gem. Other locations spanning across the globe are Mexico, Brazil, Siberia, India, Indonesia, and even USA!
How is Opal Mined?
Opals are the relatively softer and low-hardness stones that can usually mined by a single worker alone. Their mining process doesn’t require heavy machinery, either. The technique is easy. A rock with promising quantity of the stone is located and is gently broken using a shaft. A small tool like a screwdriver is used to extract the stone out of this rock. It needs to be handled carefully, as it isn’t as hard and tough as other gems.
However, when we’re speaking of industrial-level mining, then there has been noted a heavy use of machinery. Low-strength of explosives are, too, used for the extraction of this wonderful-looking gemstone. Here, large boulders are located, which carry large amounts of opal. These boulders are then taken out and later extraction is done employing much care.
Properties of Opal
Opals are primarily and popularly known for their gorgeous iridescence. The divine gemstone has a unique look that cannot be found in any other gemstone. That said, it has some determining physical properties that help you value it easily. Unlike most other gemstones, its properties cannot be divided into 4Cs, which is due to the fact that every single piece of opal is different than the other. Below, we have explained the main characteristics of this wonderful yet mystical gemstone:
Opal stone is known mainly for its ravishing and hypnotizing colours. It is yet to be determined how exactly the stone gets its colours. Carrying a whole universe of diverse shades in itself, the main base colours of this gem are white, yellow, red, colourless, green, brown, and even black. It is believed that the stone has been made of Hydrated Silicon Dioxide. Some even say that it is formed over the years as rainwater enter rivulets and cracks of rocks, and evaporates over time, leaving small traces of silicon. This results into the rainbow spectrum of different colours.
2. Clarity and Lustre
Opals aren’t known popularly for their clarity. They’re actually quite clouded and opaque stones, but this makes their iridescence stand out even more perfectly. There are, albeit, some grades and variants of opal that are absolutely colourless. In most cases, you’ll find them heavily streaked, too. They are absolutely not known for any kind of crystalline quality, either.
When it comes to their lustre, opals are quite blessed. They have been referred to as greasy or waxy, even feeling almost like resin. Most stones flaunt an exceptionally smooth and mirror-like finish. These vitreous stones have been quite coveted for their smooth shine that offers the best canvas to all colours seen inside of it.
3. Cut and Hardness
Known to be quite soft as stones, opals only rank 5.5-6 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. This soft and breakable nature is the prime reason why you won’t note any kind of faceting on the stone. This is why most opal stones in jewellery designs are seen in smooth cabochon shapes. Available in several different shapes and sizes, these cabochons find their perfect spot in even the most detailed designs. Opals are stones available in a whole myriad of sizes and cuts, which makes them ideal not only for the centre spot but also as colourful accents.
Opal Gemstone Treatment Like all the other gemstones, opals too undergo some sort of treatment to enhance their beauty. In most cases, you’ll note that the variants of black, white, or grey are submerged in sugar water, followed by sulphuric acid. This causes carbonisation and makes black specks appear on the stone that makes the colours inside of it stand out better. If the stone found is unstable or has fractures that effect its construct, it is filled with oil and resin that make it sturdier and more durable.
Types and Origins of Opal
Discovered thousands of years ago, opals have made their strong impact in the ruling market. There are several origins and spots across the globe where these minerals can be richly found. However, there are main spots or popular origins, where these stones are found in a higher and better grade. Some of these origins are mentioned below:
In the present market of gemstones, more than 90% of the stones are mined from or sourced from Australia. There have been seen and noted some major boulder findings of this gorgeous gemstone. The famous and equally popular variety of white opal can be majorly found in fields of Coober Pedy, which is located in South Australia. These gems are usually called white opals, milk opals, or even milky opals.
Another coming-to-popularity origin of the said stone is found in Ethiopia. The source is quickly coming up to be the second largest source, owing the recent more important discoveries. These stones are brought from Africa and they’re known for their unique patterns. This variety maintains its popularity as no other stone offers such beautiful cabochons cuts as these. In fact, some of these gems also absorb water, and then, change their colour pattern.
Known to be quite rare, they’re only found in the Andres Mountains. This variety of opals is rich in water content, which makes them appear in different solid colours. Some of the more popular colours spotted are pink and blue. It is, however, to be noted that these gems tend to lose their intensity of colour if they’re left in heat for a long time.
Mined in Mexico, these gems are found in the volcanic rocks or spotted in streams of lava, hence, they’re also called “fire opals.” They have a strong orange-red colour and are also known as the national gemstones of Mexico. The major mines of these gems were spotted back in 1950s, and since then they’ve been quite in demand. These are among the only few varieties of opal that can be chiselled into facets.
Healing Properties of Opal
Since ages, opal stone has been considered not only an aesthetically gifted gem, but also believed to be holding strong powers and healing abilities. Infused with little bursts of fire and rainbow, they’re also called the “eye stones.” In almost all the healing communities across the globe, an the powerful gem is considered to be lucky and aiding. Here are mentioned some of the more noted and believed benefits of this stone:
Decorating an Opal Stone
Just like the colours seen embedded inside these gorgeous stones, opals have several healing benefits that are believed by many. It is believed that white opals offer lots of comfort and nurturing to the early mothers or mothers-to-be, making them an ideal stone to be placed in the rooms of mums or nurseries.
Opals are the ideal stones to be decorated in children’s rooms, too. They’re considered to be protecting stones and keep young minds away from fears and nightmares. Some also believe that by putting this stone in your child’s room, you may stop them from having imaginary or invisible friends.
Opals are also considered by some to be stones full of romance. It is believed that if placed in the bedroom, they might bring passion and love back in the relationship.
Wearing an Opal Stone
There are lots and lots of benefits of wearing this powerful healing gemstone, healers claim. It is believed that opals are the anti-dotes of anxious, racing and /depressed thoughts. They also aid a person in increasing their self-confidence and bring freedom to the wearers. Some may also believe that these stones can tame the anger and keeps the wearer in check of themselves.
Other physical benefits believed of wearing this powerful gem are related to purification of blood and kidneys. Some healers believe that this nurturing gemstone makes both conception and childbirth easier.
What to Remember While Buying Opal?
If you’re going out to purchase the precious opal, there lots of things and facts that you need to keep in mind. To get the best quality and clarity, we have accumulated a few helpful tips and tricks. Read on to know them:
1. In order to get the best quality for your buck, you need to educate yourself before you step out to buy the stone. Know well about the different kinds and varieties that are available in the market.
2. The most important character of an opal is its iridescence. The stone should have a brilliant play of different colours that can be displayed from all angles. If the colours are stronger and more diverse, your opal is going to be more expensive.
3. You must also keep in the mind the base colour of the stone that you’re wishing to purchase. Know that the dark colours of base command a higher price as they’re known to be rarer and more exclusively found than the white and cream varieties.
4. You also need to know well in advance about what doublets and triplets of opals are. Albeit, they’re real varieties of the said stone, they have a much lower value and only a sleek layer of our main stone.
5. Keep in mind that almost no opal will look like the other. Patterns found on a single stone are exclusive to that gem piece itself. This means that you’ll rarely come across two pieces that are exactly alike each other.
6. Whenever you’re buying any expensive real gemstone, always ask for certificate of authenticity. It is the same with opals. When you’re buying them from any dealer, always ask for proof of their originality.
7. Opals are known to absorb colours and get brighter when they’re wet. Make sure that you’re not viewing a stone that’s directly taken out of water as it will always have brighter and richer shades. Make sure that the stone you’re viewing is dry.
8. The small inclusions in the stone are considered to be absolutely natural and you can easily spot them. However, the specimens with cracks and fractures are usually undesirable. Ensure that your stone has neither of them. A cracked or a fractures gemstone is virtually worthless and has little or no value.
9. There are imitations of this beautiful gemstone that are easily available in the market. These imitations are cheaper and low in value. Be aware of the synthetically created alternatives to this stone.
10. Owing to its softness, opals are rarely found in bigger sizes. This makes big-sized opals pricier. However, if the specimen is too large to be fitted into a jewellery piece, or thick, its value will fall as it will need to be broken down into smaller units.
Frequently Asked Question About Opals
There are lots of unanswered questions around this stone. We have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions and tried to answer them all. Find them below:
1. Are Opals Expensive?
The stone in general isn’t all that expensive and is quite easy on the pocket. However, it has certain types that are rarer and pricier than the others. Black opals are considered to be far more expensive and valued than the milky ones.
2. What Is the Most Expensive Opal?
The most expensive stone of this kind found has been called “Virgin Rainbow” and it is considered to be extremely precious. It has a fantastic feature of glowing in the dark. It is believed that its value is more than $1 million.
3. What Does an Opal Symbolise?
This gorgeous gemstone is associated with a lot of things. It is said to be protective stone, symbolising purity and healing. It is also believed by some that by wearing it, you may be blessed with loyalty and faithfulness.
4. Which Month is Birthstone Opal For?
This gemstone is considered to be lucky for everyone who has been born during the month of October. The stone is believed to bring lots of luck and happiness to the wearer and can be worn in amulets or even as a simple jewellery piece.
5. What Colour Opal Is Most Valuable?
The said gemstone is rarely found in single colours. However, black and red opals are found to be the rarest variety among all. Other incredibly sought-after colours are green, purple, orange, and blue.
6. Which Are the Popular Origins of Opal?
Majority of the stones in the current circulating market have been mined and sourced from Australia. Another budding source is Ethiopia. More stones can be found in Brazil, India, Siberia, and a few more places.
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Facts About Opals
There are several fun and interesting facts about this stone that you ought to know. Below are mentioned the more exciting ones:
- Birthstone opal is considered to lucky for all the people who are born during the month of October. The stone is believed to bring lots of happiness, luck, and joy to the wearers of everyone who has been born during this month.
- People consider this brilliant gem to be a protective stone. They believe that by wearing it as talisman around the neck or arm, it can easily protect you and keep you away from evil eye and all negative emotions.
- How opal is formed is still considered to be a mystery. However, some continue to believe that it is formed from rainwater. They claim that when raindrops fall in the crevices of a rock, the water slowly evaporates but leaves behind traces of silica, which are crucial in the formation of this stunning gemstone.
- You’d be surprised to know that almost a whopping 95% of the circulating opals in the market as of current have been mined from Australia. Another budding region is Ethiopia, in Africa. Gem-quality stones are also mined from Brazil and Mexico.
- Two main kinds of opals are referred to as “precious opals” and “common opals.” The precious kind has either strong iridescence or play of colours embedded in them. They also might a fiery red tinge that makes so unique and special.
- Traces of this beautiful and unique stone have also been found on Mars. Upon more space exploration and ground material brought back, there have been noted some rocks that look and are made like opals.
- Due to its gorgeous colour iridescence and variety, many people call this “Queen of Gemstones.” In fact, ancients believed that these gems are quite powerful and can be used as protective and healing stones, too.
- Among the favourites, Queen Victoria has been quite fascinated with this stone. She has a vast collection of other priced and prized gems like sapphire, diamonds, and rubies from all across the globe.
- These stones are truly one of their kind in one main characteristic. One stone, alone, can display the entire range of rainbow. A good quality precious opal will easily display all the seven colours of rainbow in itself.
- Another notable feature of these stones is that they rank only 5.5 to 6 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. This means that they are actually quite soft and can be easily broken or fractured. You need to be immensely careful while wearing them in your jewellery.