Opals are one of the most mesmerizing gemstones in the world. Simply put, they are the product of seasonal rains that drenched ancient underground rocks and are famous for their remarkable display of glistening rainbow colours called ‘play-of-colour’.
Opals are 5 ½ to 6 ½ on Mohs’ hardness scale and they can be fairly sensitive to temperature. When the temperature changes you can actually see a slight change in the opals colour.
For the most part, Opals are divided into five different categories:
– Black Opal: Translucent to opaque, with play-of-color against a black or other dark background. (Black Opal is rare and very expensive).
– Boulder opal: Translucent to opaque, with play-of-color against a light to dark background. Fragments of the surrounding rock, called matrix, become part of the finished gem
– Crystal or water opal: Transparent to semitransparent, with a clear background. This type shows extraordinary play-of-color.
– Fire opal (Mexican Opal): Transparent to translucent, with brown, yellow, orange, or red bodycolour and often doesn’t show play-of-color. (the transparent Fire Opal is highly valued)
– White or light opal: Translucent to semi-translucent, with play-of-color against a white or light grey background colour, called bodycolour.
Australia produces over 95% of the world’s supply of opal gemstones and consequently, Opal is considered to be the national gemstone for Australia. Queen Victoria’s favourite gemstone was Opal too.
Opal is the birthstone for the month of October, share with Tourmaline, and gemstone representing the 14th Wedding Anniversary. They are also considered to be the national gemstone for Australia. This is because over 95% of the worlds supply of opal gemstones are found in Australia.
The Opal is thought to symbolises faithfulness and hope and supposedly encourage those going through hardships by increasing inner strength and helping the wearer/owner of the opal in letting go of negativity from the past. Subsequently, because of its desirable and alluring qualities Opals have long been associated with love, passion, and erotica.
In India, many believe Opals can enhance a persons memory and also increase strength for those who suffer from life-threatening illnesses.
Queen Victoria’s favourite gemstone was Opal.