Opals are without question one of the most magical gemstones. They are said to posses the likes of a child, with their playful and colorful tendencies. Just like snowflakes, no two opals are alike. They are extraordinarily special because of their breathtaking ability to possess all the colors of the rainbow. There is something so special about the alluring, otherworldly stone, that is so steeped in mystical lore, superstition & opulence!
"...A shattered rainbow in a shell
Its glories hidden where it fell;
The gem without a parallel-
All this and more."
Q : Where does the word "opal" originate from?
A : The word opal possibly comes from the sanskrit word "Upala" meaning : precious stone. It also could come from the Roman word "Opalus" which means to see a change of color. The true origin of the name is still debated to this day.
"...When mother earth laid bare her breast
To show what jewels she possessed,
Black opal far outshone the rest..."
Q : What is the stigma behind opals being bad luck?
A : Many still believe to this day that opals are unlucky for those who wear it, if it is not their personal birthstone. One of the most notable historical reasonings for this superstition comes from the novel "Anne of Geierstein" by Sir Waltor Scott. The leading lady in the book from the 1800s, was accused of demonic activity and had a drop of holy water fall onto her personal opal which removed the color. Many people believed that the writer was warning them of the bad luck opals represented. Opal sales and prices plummeted drastically for many years after, and is still a myth told today although there is no physical proof, rather just a wives tale passed down through the ages. (I personally believe that they bring good luck, and I wear my vintage opal jewelry almost everyday!)
"...The morning’s blush; the golden ray
The clouds on fire at close of day;..."
Q : What are some positive attributes of the opal?
A : There is copious amounts of phenomenal traits of the beautiful opal. Opals are said to bring inspiration, clarity, luck and psychic ability. They are said to aid from disease. Opals in medieval times were desirable for blonde maidens to wear because it was believed to keep their hair from darkening and fading. Opals were one of Queen Victoria's favorite gemstones. She ignored the superstitions surrounding opals and gave them as wedding gifts to all of her daughters, and was known to wear them often herself.
"...Some are like moonlight,
Spangled with stars,
A white cloister gate
With gleaming gold bars!"
Q : What are main aspects that determine an opal's quality?
A : There are three main characteristics : 1. Color. 2. Pattern. 3. Clarity.
Color represents the different backgrounds and the "play of color" in an opal. Pattern is the formation of the "play of color". Clarity determines the value of the opal.
Play of color is what makes opals different from other gemstones, and also what makes some of the various types rare and sought after more than others. The play of color you see is actually microscopic spheres of silica in tiny organized positions within the gemstone. The light then passes through the various spheres and afterwards is diffracted into all of the colors of the spectrum.
"...Flames in mosaic,
Sparkling and gay,
Then prim and possaic
With a pallor of grey."
Q : How should you care & clean for your opal jewelry?
A : Opals are much softer than most gemstones, so they should never be put into an ultrasonic. The best way to clean them is with warm soapy water, making sure to remove all the soap afterward, because it can be drying and damaging if left on. Hot or extremely cold water can easily crack the fragile stone. They should be dried carefully but thoroughly with a soft cloth. Repeat this often or at least every two months to prevent build up.
"...October's child is born for woe,
And life's vicissitudes must know,
But lay an Opal on her breast,
And hope will lull those woes to rest."
Q : How many types of opals are there?
A : There are numerous types of opals! They range from the common white opal which is milky in color, to precious opals that exhibit the fiery play of color. Some other types include : jelly, fire, boulder, crystal, and black opals. Black opals have a darker background showing off the play of color more vibrantly. Black opals are known for being the most valuable in the category of opals because of how well they display the fiery flecks within.
"...No matter what the day before
Has brought to me of pain,
I find my slate is wiped clean as
I watch the sight again,
Of colors spreading gloriously
From blue to pink, nearby,
A promise of things yet to come...
Bright opals in the sky."
~ Dahlia Jean