The word opal is derived from the Sanskrit ‘upala’ meaning ‘precious stone’.
Opal can display a phenomena called ‘play of colour’, which means the gemstone shows broad flashes of colour which appear and disappear when the stone is moved. This type of opal is often described as ‘precioius opal’. Opal which displays no ‘play of colour’ is known as ‘common opal’.
The first recordings of opal are from around 50BC, when the stone was being traded down the Danube to the Greek city of Corinth and to Rome. At this time, opals were being mined in Slovakia and Hungary. From 1869 large deposits were found across Australia. At this time opal became a very spiritual stone for the Aboriginals as it was associated with the multi-coloured ‘rainbow serpent’ which represented protection.
Opal is made up of compressed silica spheres and is between 5-15% composed of water. Opal has an amorphous structure which means its crystal structure is without a definite shape.
Where is opal mined?
Originally mined in Slovakia and Hungary. Today Opal is mainly mined in Australia and Mexico.
Intense Yellow, Orange and Red opals from Mexico is known as ‘fire’ or ‘cherry’ opal. In Mexican folklore they are said to bestow success on the wearer. The most famous fire opal is known as the ‘Aztec Sun God’ it is a 35ct fire opal.
Opal is 5.5-6.5 on the Mohs scale.
Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, White, Black, Colourless.
Birthstone and Anniversary Stone
Opal is the birthstone of October and is traditionally given on the 13th wedding anniversary.