10 February 2023
The birthstone of the month of October is the opal! The opal is a very special stone and is also considered the rainbow among gemstones. The unique thing about the opal is that one stone can consist of several colours. The opal often (but by no means always!) has a transparent or white base colour that, depending on the incidence of light, shows a beautiful play of colours. Therefore, the opal also reminds us a little of Winter Wonderland, which does ease the pain of the end of the summer season a little.
But where does this opal's impressive play of colours come from? Opal has minute openings in its structure, which are filled with so-called secondary silica during the stone's hardening process. Perhaps this is also why this gemstone has been named the official gemstone of Australia! Australia is therefore the largest source of opals. In fact, sources in Australia account for more than 90% of all mined opal worldwide. The quality of Australian opal is also rated the best. These opals are also called fire opals due to the striking play of colours in the stones. In addition, a fossil of a Pliosaur, whose skeleton was completely turned into opal, has been found in Australia. This fossil, about 100 million years old, is now on display at the National Museum in Sydney.
The word opal derives from the Sanskrit úpala, meaning gemstone. Usually this gemstone is transparent or translucent and it may sound strange, but this 'stone' contains an extraordinary amount of water: in fact, the percentage of water can be as high as 30%! This gemstone may originate as a filling of cracks or holes in a rock when fossils are formed. The opals with the most impressive play of colours (also called opalescence) are categorised as fire opals or precious opals. Common opal is very common. However, only a small proportion of these are of gem quality. There is also a lot of synthetic (made) opal in circulation. The original opal can be distinguished from synthetic opal by looking at it under a magnifying glass, as the original opal has a special 'scale-like' structure. In addition, synthetic opals are often very porous.
The gemstone opal has been used since ancient times. Documents have been found from around 500 BC stating that opal was used to produce tools and for ornamental objects. The Romans saw opal as a magical stone. It was believed that the special gemstone brought bad luck to those who did not cleanse it properly. In addition, the stone was said to help against melancholy and nerves, and it was believed to restore eyesight by giving the eyes more luster. In the 16th century, Spanish conquerors brought back all kinds of gemstones from their conquests in South America. Among these gemstones were beautiful Peruvian opals. The opal's popularity experienced a gigantic dip in the 19th century. This was because the main character in a popular novel always wore a large opal in her hair, on which there was a curse. After holy water falls over the opal, the stone loses all its colour and the woman dies. After the publication of this novel, sales of the opal dropped drastically. Only in the 19th century did the popularity of the stone rise again. This was because Queen Victoria of England loved the magical stone and therefore started a large collection.
If you have a piece of jewellery with opal, always be careful. Opal is very brittle and breaks easily. Be careful when using soaps, creams and other skin care products. This is because these can affect the shine. Opal is also very sensitive to dryness and moisture. Opal can easily dry out in heat and/or full sunlight. This causes the stone to lose its beautiful shine. Is your opal not shining as it used to? Then wrap it in a damp cloth or a bowl of water.
At DiamondsByMe, we do not process opals in jewellery. This is partly due to the porosity of the stone. Of course, we want our jewellery to retain its quality. Still looking for a colourful piece of jewellery? Then take a look at our collection of rings with pink sapphire, aquamarine, peridote or blue topaz! In many designs, combining these gemstones is also possible! Take a look at www.diamondsbyme.nl!