With their shimmering and alluring beauty, opals stand unrivaled among gemstones, making them a coveted choice for jewelry that never fails to enchant. Associated with the birth month of October, these radiant gems come with captivating secrets and fascinating folklore. Let's uncover intriguing facts about opals and unveil the mystique behind the gemstone that has both dazzled and mystified humans through the ages.
Probably its best-known characteristic! Opals are known for their unique play of colors, including a dazzling array of hues, often resembling a rainbow trapped within the stone.
Opal is one of the birthstones for the tenth month of the year, October.
The word "opal" is derived from the Greek word "opallios," meaning "to see a change of color." Opals have been revered and used in jewelry for thousands of years, with records of opal mining dating back to ancient times.
Some opals, known as fire opals, have a vibrant orange or reddish hue and are particularly prized for their intense color. Miners primarily discover fire opals in Mexico, often labeling them as 'Mexican fire opals. Unlike traditional opals, fire opals derive fiery hues from iron oxide impurities. These impurities give them their distinctive red, orange, or yellow colors, and they are often translucent to transparent, allowing light to pass through and showcase their vivid hues.
Australia is often associated with opal production, and in 1993, Australia declared opal as its national gemstone.
The "Olympic Australis" is one of the world's most significant and most valuable opals, weighing over 17,000 carats. Australia unearthed this gem in 1956.
Opals come in various types, including white opal, black opal, crystal opal, and boulder opal, each with unique characteristics.
Opals are formed from silica-rich solutions that flow into cracks and cavities in rocks. Over time, these solutions harden to create the unique patterns and colors found in opal gemstones. Opals contain water molecules ranging from 2% to 20% of their composition. This water content contributes to their play of colors. It is also why opals are fragile and need extra care when working with jewelry.
Some cultures cherished them as symbols of hope and purity, while others dreaded them as bearers of misfortune. The Ancient Greeks, for instance, believed opals could shield against diseases and bestow foresight. On the other hand, Romans associated opals with hope and good fortune. In the Middle East, opals were thought to descend from the heavens in lightning flashes, granting them their fiery allure. This belief portrayed them as symbols of protection against evil and omens of good luck.
It is probably no surprise that Opals became associated with bad luck during the European Medival Ages. This belief can partly be blamed on the novel "Anne of Geierstein" by Sir Walter Scott, in which an opal brought bad luck to the main character, thus popularizing the superstition of bad luck. Some believe that the Diamond Empire DeBeers tried to market the lousy luck of opals; however, those superstitions long preceded the DeBeers' marketing of diamonds as the ultimate symbol of love and commitment, primarily in the 20th century.
The opals in my jewelry making are frequently Egyptian or Welo opals. Egyptian Opals are typically white or milky with subtle colors, including flashes of greens, blues, and shades of pink. Welo opals come from the Welo district in Ethiopia; they have been gaining popularity over the years and are known for their high transparency, allowing the color to shine brilliantly.