Opals are one of the most beautiful, colorful and sought after jewelry gemstones. The most remarkable Opal specimens display an entire spectrum of colors with an intensity that outshines even the diamonds.
Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder described opal’s seductive interplay of colors the best: “For in them you shall see the living fire of the ruby, the glorious purple of the amethyst, the sea green of the emerald – all glittering together in an incredible mixture of light.”
Also called the “Queen of Gemstones”, each Opal is unique in its own way, exhibiting the most fascinating play of color. This phenomenon – an ever-changing spectrum of hues that shift and glow as if lit from within, give an opal its extraordinary appearance.
Unlike most other gemstones, Opals are not minerals but amorphous mineraloids. They are formed when silica-rich water flows along cracks in rocks, depositing tiny silica spheres in gaps and crevices. These spheres merge together over time to form a solid mass. The formation of opals takes millions of years, during which time the spheres grow to about half a millimeter in diameter.
Opals do not sparkle like diamonds or rubies, but display a kaleidoscopic play-of-color.
Opals are categorized as either “precious” or “ common”, depending on whether they exhibit an interplay of internal colors or not. The neatly arranged and uniformly shaped silica spheres in precious opals diffract light, creating the prismatic effect.
Common opals, on the other hand, are bereft of diffraction capabilities as their spheres are random in size, shape and arrangement. They do, however, often show a milky sheen of light from within the stone, known as opalescence. Common opals also come in a variety of colors and can be very attractive.
There are many types of opals, both precious and common.
Black Opal is a very rare variety of precious opal, mined in Lightning Ridge in Australia. The dark color of the gemstone provides the perfect backdrop to the opal’s other-worldly play-of-color.
Boulder Opals resemble the black ones and are second on the list of precious opals. A layer of solid ironstone left on the back of the gemstone makes boulder opals easy to recognise.
White Opals with an opaque or translucent white-, yellow- or cream-coloured body make up the majority of precious opals. The opals reflect mostly pastel colors - baby blues, blush pinks, and soft yellows.
Fire Opal is a transparent gemstone displaying vibrant, fire-like yellow, orange and red colors the stone gets its name from. Found mostly in Mexico, the most valuable fire opals are crystal clear and intensely bright.
Crystal Opals are any opals (i.e. black opals and white opals) with a transparent, translucent or semi-translucent body. These opals typically have a higher reflective index than other opals, meaning that they produce a greater range of colors when they interact with light.
Blue Opal falls within the common opal category. It produces a blueish-spectrum of light reflection, ranging from pale to deep dark blue. A single opal may display different tones of blue within the same stone.
Pink Opal is a variety of common opal, characterized by its color that can range from blush to coral hues. The brightest pink opals come from Peru and are famous for their intense, uniform color.
Morado Opal is a type of common opal, also known as “purple opal”. Its principal color ranges from purple to reddish-brown with white patches forming interesting patterns and combinations.Harlequin Opal displays diamond-shaped patches of color. These opals are typically very bright and vibrant, with a wide range of colors present. The pattern is extremely rare, and as such, harlequin opals are highly sought after by opal lovers.
The history of opal is as fascinating as its looks, stretching back thousands of years and continuing with a vibrant present. The first Opal finds have been dated to over 10,000 years ago in North America and 6,000 years ago in Kenya.
The name Opal is believed to originate from the Sanskrit word “upala”, meaning “precious stone”. In the Greek language the stone was known as “Opallios” and in Latin “Opalus”, both meaning “to see a change in color”.
Early races bestowed various qualities on Opal, with the early Greeks believing in its power of prophecy and the Romans considering it to be a token of hope and purity. Partly for its phenomenal beauty and rarity and partly for its perceived qualities, Opal was held in high regard and valued more than diamonds or pearls in Ancient Rome. One Roman Emperor is even reputed to have offered to trade one-third of his entire empire for a single Opal.
Opals were the darlings of various European monarchs – they were set in the Crown jewels of France and belonged to the personal collection of Queen Victoria.
Before the discovery of Opal deposits in Australia and Mexico in the 19th century, the only Opal mines in the world were those of Červenica. In 1994 exceptional quality opal was also discovered in Ethiopia. Nowadays the majority of the world’s Opal is mined in Australia while there are significant worldwide deposits also in the United States, Mexico, Ethiopia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Turkey, Indonesia, Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
In addition to its aesthetic appeal, opal is believed to have several positive properties and meanings for its wearers.
First and foremost, it is a soothing stone, promoting calmness and banishing restless thoughts. Opal has the power to center the mind and to help direct one’s thoughts and energies toward wise ends. Its balancing abilities can help to control mood changes and to make peace with the past.
Opal is also known as a protective gemstone that shields from negative energies and helps to avoid absorbing the negative thoughts of others.
Also christened as “Cupid stone” by the Romans, opal is associated with love and desire. The gemstone is believed to intensify emotions and to release inhibitions. It enhances mutual understanding and love between couples.
When it comes to the emotional benefits of Opal, it is said to help nurture and support relationships, and to encourage friendship and loyalty. In terms of self-love, Opal is believed to promote a positive outlook towards oneself, helping to foster self-esteem and confidence. It can also help you to understand your full potential.
Opal is believed to have an ability to heal the soul and drive away sadness. If you are feeling down or going through a tough time, wearing an Opal can help to lift your spirits and bring back the joy. The gemstone is also said to be helpful to those who are grieving, as it can ease the pain of loss and bring comfort.
Opal looks stunning on anyone but, as a birthstone, has special significance for Libras.
Libras are known for their quest to create a sense of equilibrium in their lives and opal, like Libras, is all about balance and harmony. It is believed to promote calm and peace, two qualities that Libras deeply value. Opal can also help Libras see both sides of every issue, which is an essential skill for maintaining balance.
As an air sign, Libras are known for their intelligence but they are also notoriously indecisive, often second-guessing themselves and changing their minds at the last minute. The iridescent colors of Opal echo the changing moods of Libra, providing a constant reminder to stay flexible and open-minded. Opal is also said to boost self-esteem, helping Libras to trust their instincts and make decisions with confidence.
Opal can be a great ally for Libra when it comes to tapping into their creativity. This gemstone is known for stimulating the imagination and encouraging originality. It helps to open up the mind and allows new ideas to flow in while also promoting focus and clarity that are essential for creative work.
In the past, Opal jewelry was frequently used to attract good luck, often given by lovers. Today, it’s an accessory that can be worn on various occasions and interpreted by everyone in their own way.
The reasons behind the popularity of opal jewelry are not difficult to discern: opals are beautiful gemstones displaying a vivid interplay of colors that sets them apart from all other stones. They are also highly regarded for their historical significance.
Opals lend themselves brilliantly to various types of jewelry and will look equally magnificent in earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings.
Opal earrings have the versatility to either be an everyday piece or to add glamor to your evening look with their ability to shine in many different tones in different lights. Whilst style statements on their own, these earrings can superbly be matched to opal necklace and bracelet.
Pendants, a highly popular choice for opal jewelry, have been in style for decades. Whether featuring smaller or larger stones, these accessories are sure to catch eyes for all the right reasons.
Opal rings in their magnificence are often worn as cocktail rings. Opal makes a perfect center stone for this statement piece that will never fail to turn heads and to catch glances.
Opal is a relatively soft gemstone (with a hardness rating of 5.5 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale) and is therefore susceptible to cracks and scratches. It also has a high water content of 21% that further contributes to the capriciousness of this gorgeous stone. In order to keep your opal jewelry looking great, it is important to take proper care of it.
Jewelry with opals is best reserved for occasional wear and should definitely be kept away from all cleaning and gardening activities. Due to its absorbent properties everything from dust to garden dirt and from lotions to home chemicals may ruin the surface of the crystal and result in dirt building up.
It is best practice to clean opal jewelry once every two months to keep it looking shiny and vibrant. You only need warm, soapy water and a soft cloth to get rid of all the accumulated dirt.
Due to their high water content, opals need to be kept moist and stored away from direct hot light to prevent them from dulling or even cracking. Wrapping your opal jewelry in a soft damp cloth and storing it separately in a closed plastic bag fends off dehydration and maintains the pristine condition of your valued items.
At Wild Woman, we are gourmands of gemstones and jewelry. We search the world for the most gorgeous gemstones and set them in jewelry to adorn women and make them feel unique every day. Our chic and sophisticated designs are created to give a little feel-good energy and a touch of glam to all the fearless, confident and empowered women out there.
We would like to invite you to join us on the extraordinary journey in the vast, colorful, and exciting world of gemstones. Enjoy their rare beauty, get inspired by stories surrounding them and allow yourself to be seduced by jewelry designs that feature finest, hand-picked gemstones.
What color opal is the most valuable?
Opal's value depends first and foremost on its brightness and brilliance but when it comes to colors, the vibrant red and black opals are particularly prized. They are followed by orange, yellow, and green opals. However, since luster is of primary importance, a brilliant green stone is always considered more valuable than a dull red one.
How can I tell if my opal is high quality?
Assessing the quality of an opal requires considering various aspects and is neither easy nor straightforward. Some variables in the valuation process even come down to subjective opinions that only qualified, experienced gemmologists can provide.
Are opals a good choice for an engagement ring?
The uniquely beautiful, kaleidoscopic Opal makes a great choice for anyone looking for a less traditional engagement ring. However, when purchasing opal jewelry, it is important to keep in mind that opals are not as durable as diamonds and require more care to maintain their gorgeous appearance.
Is opal popular for a wedding ring?
For all of its beauty and uniqueness, opal is not a mainstream gemstone when it comes to wedding rings. Wedding bands of either white, yellow, or rose gold continue to be the most popular choice for wedding rings.
Why are opals related to bad luck?
The myth about opals bringing bad luck is related to Sir Walter Scott’s book Anne of Geierstein (1829) in which the bad luck of one of the characters was blamed on the opal jewelry that she wore. The story paved the way to the first rumors about the demonic powers of Opal and the diamond dealers at the time were only too happy to fuel these myths to stop the opal market from cutting into the diamond market.
Is opal gemstone rare?
Although opal is globally abundant, gemstone-quality opals are very rare and their price can match that of the most expensive diamonds. Most of the opal found by miners either doesn’t have a lot of color to it or is unsuitable for cutting into appealing shapes.