The Birthstone of October: the Opal

By Frank

Highly experienced diamond polisher who loves to share his knowledge with you. Continues to stun his colleagues with interesting - or simply bizarre - facts about diamonds and gems.

September 28, 2017

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 on a rainbow down to earth. He brought a message of peace for all humans on earth. Every place his feet touched the ground, opals arose. The Aboriginals believed this was how 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 of 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.

emarkable opals on black background
The opal is secretive and mysterious. Its colors 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 to 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 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.

rough red fire opal in stone

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

Opal is the most beautiful when you wear it directly on your 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.

ring with big opal 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 notice shards of a pattern that looks like the skin of a lizard or nettings. Artificial opals also 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 diamond jewelry collection for jewelry in the most beautiful colors.

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