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Opal

Birthstone: October

Anniversary stone: 14th year of marriage

Opal information.

History

Displaying a beautiful array of iridescent colours, this striking gemstone dates back to the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth with most opals being more than 60 million years old. Symbolising hope and purity, the vast majority of opals used today come from Southern Australia although they can also be found in other parts of the world such as Brazil, Mexico, Czechoslovakia and the USA.

One of the worlds most sought after gemstones, the opal derives its name from the Greek word “opallios” which means “to see a change of colour”.

Characteristics

Opals are available in a wide range of colours, from the rare black opal to translucent green, fire and jelly opals, all of which have their own distinctive colours, from vivid reds and oranges to transparent blue. The most recognisable colour however is the beautiful white opal which is well known for its stunning iridescent sheen.

Unlike other gemstones opals do not contain a crystal structure and are actually naturally formed from a combination of hardened silica gel and water. The way the internal structures within these gems reflect light through the stone creates the beautiful colour changes characteristic of this gemstone. The intensity of these flashes of colour varies depending on the angle from which the stone is viewed.

Occasionally facetted, opals are more widely seen as a cabochon as the soft, smooth finish created by this cut allows these gemstones stunning optical effects to be seen to their best advantage.

Care and Cleaning

As opals are relatively porous, liquid soaps and detergents should be avoided as these substances may be absorbed by the stone causing it to lose its lustre.

Opals can be easily damaged if they are allowed to dry out so it is important that they are stored correctly. If storing your opal jewellery for long periods of time it should be kept in an air tight bag with a piece of damp cloth to keep the stone moist. Jewellery should be wrapped in a protective cloth or kept in its own box to prevent it being damaged when not being worn.

Opal jewellery can be cleaned using a damp cloth or gently with a toothbrush to remove any dirt from behind the stone. Ultra sonic cleaners found in jewellery stores should not be used.

The Moh's scale measures a gems relative hardness on a scale of 1 to 10 based on the stones “scratchability”. Diamond is the hardest at 10, sapphires and rubies measure 9, with amber at 2 ½. Whilst opal is reasonably hard at 6 on the Moh scale it is not recommended for everyday wear.

Legend and Lore

The unique visual appearance of this beautiful gemstone has lead to there being many legends associated with it. The opal is believed to possess mystical and healing powers being used in medieval times as a cure for many ailments and injuries, it was also thought that black opals would protect travellers on journeys to far away lands.

Opals were once also believed to have been used in magic potions when they were ground into fine powders and used to heal the body and ward off bad dreams.