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The Birthstone of October: the Opal

September 28, 2017/ BY Frank van Poorten

The opal is a variety of quartz and comes in many colors. There are many legends about the opal, but the one from the Aboriginals is probably the most beautiful story. According to the legend, the creator of everything walked via a rainbow down to earth. He came with a message of peace for all humans on earth. Exactly there where his feet touched the ground, opals arose. The Aboriginals believed this was the way opals were made. Their myth also tells about the two main characteristics of the stone. It’s colorful as autumn and it is a symbol for peace, happiness and hope. This makes it also the perfect birthstone for October.

blue opals on wooden table

An opal stands for

  • Visibility
  • Protection against losing your sight
  • Prevention of lightning strikes
  • Relaxing of the nerves: it reduces stress
  • Stimulation of creativity
  • Protection against nightmares
  • Mental strength
  • The health of heart and kidneys
  • Protection against infections

History

Opals are ancient and were already used by the Assyrians, Babylonians and Romans. The name stems from the old Indian word Úpala. This means gemstone.

remarkable opals on black background

The opal is secretive and mysterious with colors that keep on intriguing. The stone captures all colors of the rainbow. That’s why the Romans called it the King of the Gems.  They associated the stone with hope, love, loyalty and inspiration. The opal is also connected to the zodiac signs Pisces, Cancer, Scorpio and Sagittarius but is as well associated with the 12th and 14th year wedding anniversary.

Characteristics of the opal

An interesting fact about opals is that they consist of water for about 6% up to 20%. Unfortunately, this makes the gem very fragile. Moreover, it can lose its color due to heat and it can even dry out. The stone is very vulnerable for soap and perfume. These can even cause the stone to become matte. It’s best to clean an opal with clean water and a minimum amount of soap. Keep it also in a dark place to prevent discoloration. Be aware of scratches because these are easily made in the soft material.

Types of opals

There are many types of opals. The biggest distinction is made between regular, fire and noble opals. The difference between these is the amount and intensity of color within the opal. The noble opals are more valuable than regular ones. They have brighter colors than the normal opals. Think for example about the rare black opal – which is a noble opal. When an opal has a yellow-red color, it is called a fire opal.

red fire opal raw on black background

Finding places

The most beautiful (and expensive) opals are from Australia. It may therefore not come as a surprise that the opal is the national stone of Australia. Furthermore, the gems are found in Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico and Russia.

Opal jewelry

An opal is the most beautiful when it’s worn directly on the skin. In the early years of the 20th century, opals were often used in Art Deco jewelry pieces. Queen Elizabeth was a big fan of opals and gifted a lot of noble opals to her family and friends.

opal in ring on calendar

Synthetic opals

Besides natural opals, there are also synthetic ones. The difference is mainly visible in the end result.  The artificial opal betrays itself because of its regularity. When you look at the synthetic opal through a looking glass, you’ll notice shards of a pattern that looks like the skin of a lizard or nettings. Moreover, artificial opals often have a less beautiful color and are even more porous than natural opals.

To learn more about opals, gemstones and diamonds, book a free guided tour through our diamond polishing factory. Or take a look at our colored gem collection for jewelry in the most beautiful colors. 

opal ring in white geode

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