Opal: Queen of Gemstones

Opal birthstone month is finally here! This gemstone is famous for its kaleidoscopic interplay of colors. Opal’s beauty is uniquely incomparable and phenomenal, so much that 1st Century AD Roman historian Pliny said,

” 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.”

Birthstone-of-Month-Opal

Background

Opals have an enchanting history. In fact, this colorful stone inspires strongest emotions in humans. Gemstone and jewelry connoisseurs either love Opal greatly or fear it. For Romans, Opal was a sign of good luck. Further, Roman Emperors had Opals encrusted in their crowns to ward off disease and evil eye. The Australian aborigines associate this gemstone with the Rainbow Serpent – an eponymous deity in aboriginal mythology – and are fearful of this mysterious stone.

Holy-Roman-Empire-Crown

During Middle Ages, Opal was said to confer the power of invisibility when held and wrapped in a fresh bay leaf. In 1829, Sir Walter Scott’s novel Anne of Geierstein did considerable damage to an Opal’s reputation as a harbinger of luck. In Scott’s novel, the Baroness of Arnheim wore an Opal talisman with supernatural powers. When a drop of holy water falls on this talisman, the Opal turns into a colorless stone and the Baroness dies soon thereafter. Owning to popularity of Scott’s novel, people began to associate Opals with bad luck and death.

Walter-Scott-novel-Anne-of-Geierstein

Although Pliny attributed India as the earliest source of Opal, the only documented ancient source of Opal is in volcanic deposit located southwest of northern end Carpathian Mountains (what is now Slovakia). In modern times, high-grade Opal in Ethiopia has led to speculation that this could have been the Romans’ source as there is little evidence to show that Opal was at all known in the West prior to Roman discovery.

Opal Types

Opal-Birthstone-Earrings

White Opals are most common with their milky white body. They are famous for their rainbow-like iridescence. Depending on its angle from which you are looking, you get to see a different color transformation, creating a crystal ball like effect.

Opal-Gemstone-Ring

Black Opals have a dark gray to black color. Additionally, this stone must be opaque when held into the light to be classified as Black Opal. Semi-Black has a dark body complexion, but is translucent when held into the light. Other forms of Opal are Crystal Opal with a transparent body color; Mexican Opal which has a red to orange-brown body color; and Boulder Opal, which varies in color. Boulder Opal has very low water content making the most durable of Opals.The Fire Opal is a class apart by itself though. The body color is visually dominant and is considered a key value factor unlike other Opals.

Modern Times

In modern times Opals are known to bring happiness and confidence for to the owner. Although, many people would still like to believe they bring bad luck, because of misguidance. One of the most famous Opal enthusiasts was late English actress, Elizabeth Taylor. In more recent times, Cameron Diaz has been spotted sporting a conspicuous Opal and Diamond necklace.

Cameron-Diaz

Australia has become modern source of over 90% of world’s opal. Australian Opal was first discovered in Queensland at Listoral Downs and at Springside in 1872. However, Ethiopia continues to be the bed of high-grade Opals. You would be surprised to know that in 2008, NASA discovered Opal deposits on Mars!

Ethiopian-Opal

The major component of Opals is water, and they are not particularly hard. You need to be extra careful when wearing them. If you decide not to wear your Opal jewelry for awhile, store them in a small plastic bag with a wet napkin so it doesn’t dry out and crack.

Do you have any interesting tidbits about the ‘Queen of Gemstones’? Do you believe in these superstitions associated with Opal? We eagerly await your comments in our sections below. You comment may help you win free Opal jewelry.

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Editor-in-Chief, Marketing Manager and Personal Jeweler for Angara.