The gemstone Opal has been variously described. The great English poet Shakespeare called it the “Queen of Gems”. The Roman historian Pliny referred to it as a gemstone “having the fire of the carbuncle, the brilliant purple of the amethyst and the sea green colour of the emerald, all shining together in incredible union”.
The chemical composition of opal is hydrous silicate di-oxide (SiO2 + nH2O). It specific gravity ranges between 1.98 and 2.20 and the refractive index ranges from 1.44 to 1.46. The hardness of the opal on the Mohs scale is generally between 5.5 and 6. The opal is mostly made up of silica and is a very delicate stone. It also contains a significant amount of water (usually between 3 and 10 percent). In most cases, the gem is accompanied by fair amount of cristobalite.
Opals are mined in the Czech Republic, Honduras, Mexico and Nevada (U.S.A) but chiefly in Australia. Most of the world’s opal production is mined in Australia, with Mexico being the nearest competitor.
Australia supplies more than 90 per cent of these gemstones to the world market. The main centers of production are Lightning Ridge in NSW and Coober Pedy and Andamooka in South Australia.
Less important centers are White Cliffs in far NW or NSW and WInton, Quilpie and Cunnamulla districts in Queensland and near Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.
Opals are Australia’s most valuable gemstone exports. The current Australian production figures for uncut gems vary between a$100 million and a$200 million. A large proportion of Australia’s rough opal is exported to Hong Kong, Japan, the United States and Germany.
Even though they are located in the desolate arid interior of the continent, the opal mining areas have become popular tourist attractions where visitors can try their luck at fossicking or purchase stones from the local miners.
Colour of Opal
Opal comes in both colour and colourless form. The quality of this gemstone is said to be determined by the number of colours exhibited and the evenness of the pattern.Black opal is among the most favoured and treasured coloured opals. This kind of opal is said to displays a range of strong colours. In other words, it displays brilliant flashes of various colours in all its vibrancy by diffracting white light. This kind of opal has dark colour background and is hailed as an unbelievable gemstone. Another kind of coloured opal is white opal, with light background; the colour display is based on pastel hues. Then there is Crystal opal which has colourless background and refracts colour and allows light to pass through it.
Fire Opal with fair transparency may have background colour in any kind, that is, yellow or brown or orange or red. On certain occasions it has no colour background. This kind of opal is also called Mexican Opal.
Opal which is colourless, transparent or semi-transparent and has no or little refraction of colour is referred to as jelly or water opal. White and Fire opals are much more common.
Benefits of Opal
A person whose birthstone is opal has a gentle and a humanitarian personality. His personality is full of colour and beauty, and he likes the company of others having the same characteristics as he or she. Such a personality is a die-hard optimist with positive energy flow and loathes pessimists.
Opal is said to alleviate indigestion, stomach disorders and eye problems. The gemstone helps the wearer find happiness, love, good fortune and favour in the courts. Opal enables the wearer to foresee minor illness and this is indicated with the opal turning dull and grey. Opal turns sickly yellow when injury or accident is imminent.
Healing power of Opal
In medieval times Opal was considered to be a cure for diseases of the eye.
Fire Opal: Beneficial for red corpuscle & blood disorders, depression, apathy, lethargy.
Black Opal: Beneficial for reproductive organs, spleen & pancreas, filters red corpuscles & aids white corpuscles; bone marrow; depression, especially sexual in origin.
White Opal: It is beneficial for balances left and right brain hemispheres for neuro stability; stimulates white corpuscles
Mystical power of Opal
Most gemstones, a long list of healing and magical powers has been attributed to Opal.
cures eye disease
balances the left and right lobes of the brain
instills faithfulness, confidence and brings good luck
aids in the search for true love
protects against the evil eye (black opals worn near the heart)
dispels bad dreams
Black opal is regarded as an extremely lucky stone. In ancient times opal was accepted as a symbol of faithfulness and confidence. It had a reputation for it healing properties, especially increasing mental capacities such as creative imagination. Black opal worn near the heart on necklace made of gold is said to protect one from the evil eye and protect travelers on journeys to faraway lands. Opals have been ground up and used as magic potions to heal the body, ward off bad dreams, and used as energy enhancement tools.
Care for Opal
Solid opal should be cleaned gently with mild detergent in warm water and a soft toothbrush or cloth. Avoid bleach, chemicals and cleaners. Doublets & triplets may be wiped with a damp soft cloth and mild detergent, but should never be soaked or immersed.
Never allow anyone to clean your opal in an ultrasonic cleaner, as the intense vibrations may cause cracking in a solid opal, and water penetration in a double or triple.
If your stone loses its shine or becomes scratched, bring it back to an opal cutter. After years of wear, small scratches and scuff marks cause an opal to lose its shiny polish and become dull looking. Professional polishing can bring new life to an opal which has become dull or scratched, and we can also check for claw damage and ensure the security of the setting.
If you need to store your opal away for a period of time, simply place it in a padded cloth bag for protection and store it away. For longer storage periods, place your opal in cotton wool with a few drops of water, then into a sealed plastic bag just to be safe. The water is not intended to soak into the stone (as opal is impervious) but will prevent water coming out of the stone if it is exposed to very low humidity environments (for example, zero humidity storage safes).
Birth Stone Opal
Opal is the birthstone for the month of October, along with pink tourmaline.
Wedding anniversary stone Opal
Opal is the anniversary gemstone for the 14th and 18th years of marriage.