Gemstone Guide: Opal
In our past gemstone guides we’ve talked about amethyst, jasper, turquoise, sodalite, larimar, and many other fabulous gemstones and minerals. This month, we’ll be talking about another one of our favorites: opal! We’ll review what makes opals so special and share a few of our favorite pieces of opal jewelry.
What is an Opal?
Opals have been treasured gemstones for over 2000 years! A philosopher in ancient Rome said that opals, “carry such a play within them that they equal the deepest and richest colors of painters.” And if you’ve ever seen one in person you know what he meant!
Because of their interior crystalline structure, no two opals are alike! Each opal refracts and reflects light in a way that’s completely one-of-a-kind. Opals may appear to have a contain a fiery red, a deep ocean blue, or colors including yellow, green, rose, pink, or even black! It’s almost hard to believe they’re all the same stone! Some stones even look very different depending on the light or the angle!
Where Are Opals Found
Like turquoise, amber, and a few of the other gemstones we’ve talked about in the past, opals are found all over the world, with some of the most highly sought after opals coming from Australia, Ethiopia, Nevada, and Honduras.
Why are opals so widespread? It’s because fundamentally they’re made from silica, a very common, naturally occurring material that makes up quartz, sandstone, and other very common rocks and minerals. However, under the right conditions amazingly beautiful opals can form!
Fun Facts About Opals
- The famous Aurora Australis opal is so-named because it looks like the celestial phenomenon (seen above)!
- In 2008, NASA discovered that Mars of all places had rich deposits of opal!
- Opal is the national gemstone of Australia.
- October’s birthstone is opal!
- Opal is also the traditional gift for the 14th wedding anniversary.
- The word “opal” comes from the Greek “opallios”, meaning “seeing a change of color.”
- Opals are believed by some to have magical powers including helping with romantic relationships and improving your social status.
- Scientists believe that rainwater plays a part in how opals are formed.
The Flame Queen Opal
Just like there are very famous diamonds, like the Hope Diamond for example, there are also some very notable opals. Perhaps the most famous and most well known is the Flame Queen Opal.
It’s an incredible 263 carats (over 2 ounces) and was discovered in 1914 in an Australian mine. Believe it or not, it was originally sold for less than $100, while today it’s considered to be nearly priceless!
The most amazing thing about the Flame Queen is its amazingly rich and vibrant fiery red color. However, depending on the viewing angle it sometimes looks blue-green or even golden! From the right angle, some people say it looks just like a fried egg!
More Amazingly Beautiful Opals
The Rainbow Shield Opal
Another Australian opal that looks almost like a modern hologram! Isn’t it amazing!
This incredible pure yellow opal was mined in Mexico! The solid color comes from the crystal’s structure and lack of impurities in the stone. A solid-colored opal is much rarer than those with many colors.
Polished Yowah Opal
Another Australian opal, this stone from the Yowah mines is a great example of the intricate interior structure common to many opals. It almost looks like a paisley pattern, doesn’t it?
Ethiopian Opal Pendant
This incredible opal pendant was made from a stone mined in Ethiopia. Isn’t incredible the variety of colors you can see in this opal? It looks like there’s a rainbow trapped inside!
Polished Blue Opal
I’m just blown away by the bright blue green colors trapped inside this highly polished opal. It’s easy to look at this and imagine the deep blue sea, isn’t it?
Synthetic & Natural Opals
Just like diamonds and other precious gemstones, manmade opals are often used in jewelry. In fact, all of our opal jewelry here at Mexican Silver Store are made from synthetic opals. Synthetic opals retain much of the beauty of their natural counterparts, but at a much more affordable price. The main difference is that synthetic opals tend to have an “arranged” look to their colors, as opposed to the haphazard wild, unpredictable nature of natural opal stones. But we think they’re just as beautiful!
Our Favorite Pieces of Opal Jewelry
Mexico Sterling Silver & Opal Jewelry Set
<img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-24462" src="https://mexicansilverstore.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/mexica-sterling-opal-3-piece-set click now.jpg” alt=”Mexican Silver & Opal Set” width=”800″ height=”730″ srcset=”https://mexicansilverstore.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/mexica-sterling-opal-3-piece-set.jpg 800w, https://mexicansilverstore.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/mexica-sterling-opal-3-piece-set-300×274.jpg 300w, https://mexicansilverstore.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/mexica-sterling-opal-3-piece-set-768×701.jpg 768w” sizes=”(max-width: 800px) 100vw, 800px” />
This 3-piece set features incredibly beautiful blue stones on a necklace, bracelet and earring set. The carefully shaped panels give an incredibly interesting geometric style to these pieces, which can be worn together or separately. It’s also available as an awesome 2-piece bracelet and earring set!
Silver & Pink Opal Necklace
I just love the shape of this incredible silver and pink opal necklace! I can’t decide if the shape reminds me of a pink heart or the reflection of the sun setting on the ocean. What do you think?
Silver & Multicolor Opal Necklace
If you want to show off the variety of colors seen in opals, this is the necklace for you! With a variety of colored and sized opal pieces, you’ll see every color of the rainbow! I just love the shape, too– slightly asymmetrical and just incredibly eye-catching!
See More Incredible Jewelry
Do you love what you’ve seen in today’s post about opal jewelry? Make sure you take a look at all of the different stones we feature in our handmade Mexican silver jewelry. If you see something you like, get in touch with us! And remember that many of our pieces can be custom made with a variety of inlay options.