With it’s supernatural origins and alluring nature; it is very fitting that opal is the birthstone for October due to it holding the spooky holiday of Halloween.
Arabic legends say that opal falls from the heavens in flashes of lightning whilst the ancient Greeks believed opals gave their owners the gift of prophecy and guarded them from disease. This opulent gemstone is a beautiful addition to any jewellery collection with it’s variety of colours that display flashing rainbow shades that transform this gemstone once moved in the light!
It was in the 1890s with the opening of a large opal mine in Australia that opal really captured the interest of gem and jewellery collectors. Art nouveau designers broke the old Victorian jewellery conventions, using the organic shape of an opal cabochons to compliment elaborate insect and nature inspired motifs. Dazzling small diamonds were also set around the opal gemstones to emphasize the rainbow flashes of colour that the opal gemstone possesses.
Opal is known for its unique display of flashing rainbow colors called play-of-color. There are two broad classes of opal: precious and common. Precious opal displays play-of-color, while common opal does not. Play-of-color occurs due to the opals chemical make-up. Precious opal is formed of sub-microscopic spheres stacked in a grid-like pattern—like layers of Ping-Pong balls in a box. As the light waves travel between the spheres, the waves diffract, or bend. As they bend, they break up into the colors of the rainbow, called spectral colors. Play-of-color is the result.
Under the large umbrella of precious and common opal, we separate opals into five further categories; white opal, black opal, fire opal, water or crystal opal and boulder opal. Each of these sub categories has a unique appearance and mean that opals are much more interesting that you may have first thought! Many people think of white opal as this is the most abundant type of opal on the market but maybe the bright orangeish-red of a fire opal is more appealing to you or perhaps the deeper body colour of a black opal would suit your tastes?
The main thing to know about owning opal jewellery is how to look after it. Due to its chemical make-up opal is a vulnerable gemstone to scratches and chips. Wearing opals in earrings or necklaces will mean your opal comes into less contact with hard surfaces. Opals are also a porous gemstone and therefore need to be given special care when cleaning. Avoid strong detergents and opt for mild soapy water and a soft toothbrush to clean any opal jewellery.