Opal is a precious gemstone most often recognized for its magical dance of color. The gemstone signifies hope, innocence, confidence and purity. Opals are believed to bring about happiness and beauty to the wearer. Opal is the birthstone for October.
Have you ever wondered how opal is formed? As water runs down through the earth, it picks up silica from sandstone and deposits it in cracks and voids. Over time, as the silica builds up and water evaporates, these deposits become beautiful opal gemstones. As the spheres of silica diffract white light, breaking it into the many colors of the spectrum, we see the phenomenon called opalescence.
Opal comes in many colors, shapes, forms, and colors. These include: white, orange, yellow, red, blue, green, purple, grey, brown and black.
Approximately 95% of the worlds supply of opal comes from Australia. Australian Boulder Opal, such as is used in these pieces, is created when opal forms in narrower veins between layers of rock. It is typically cut and polished within the host rock to highlight its individuality and to avoid waste.
Cantera Fire Opal is more crystalline, and often comes in clear vibrant colors such as oranges and reds. This type of opal tends to be more soft and is often embedded in the host rock. Many fire opals, such as these, are found in Mexico.
Ethiopian Opal, like the stone in this ring, is categorized as jelly opal because of its high water content. It is often more translucent, though it still has a beautiful play of colors.
Lab simulated opals are created in a lab setting rather than being created by the earth. Though they are created differently, the mineral composition is exactly the same. These opals have the same distinctive play of color as natural opals, with the added benefits of being eco-friendly, more affordable, have less flaws and are stronger. Sterling Opal is one brand of lab simulated opals.
Dendritic Opal is a form of common opal (meaning it shows no play of color when flashed with light) and is characterized by mineral deposits that often appear in branch-like patterns. The most common dendritic inclusions in these opals are metallic oxides like manganese and iron. These pieces are always one-of-a-kind because no two dendritic patterns are the same.
Indonesian Opalized Wood is formed when the wood grains of petrified wood are replaced by opal. Since Indonesia is an active volcanic island chain, super-heated water percolates through layers of ash deep into long buried trees, depositing silica where there once was carbon, forming these unique and colorful gems. The silica in these stones is often accompanied by other elements that give it a wide range of colors. Red, green and purple colors are usually from iron minerals. Manganese often creates pink, black and brown coloration and copper minerals can produce blue and green.
Wild Fire Opal, also referred to as "Bacon Opal" and "Bubble Opal" is a hot spring deposit that was discovered in Utah in 2018-2019. It is made mostly of silica, but does have a variety of other minerals throughout which are responsible for the vibrant colors. Reports say that all the unique Wild Fire Opal material has been completely mined out.
Opals are delicate gems. The silica in opals contains as much as 20% water, which means they may dry out if left in a warm environment. Try to avoid very high temperatures or low humidity extremes, such as boiling water or zero humidity. Avoid letting opals come in contact with bleach, chemicals and cleaners, swimming pools and spas. It is best to take off your jewelry when putting on lotions or perfumes.
Opals can be cleaned gently with a soft cloth. Never clean your opal in an ultrasonic cleaner, as the intense vibrations may cause cracking.
Store your opal jewelry in a jewelry box or safe place. Putting it in a zip bag will help reduce tarnish.