The opal’s famed irridescence is due to the play of light on minute cracks within the mineral. It is in fact a solidified jelly found in igneous rocks or around geysers and hot springs, mainly in Australia. The myriad of colours it displays is highly esteemed and can range from white, grey, brown, rose and green, with red against black being the rarest. Jewellers can enhance the play of colours by placing thin layers of opal on a darker underlying stone. The opal was valued second only to the emerald by the Romans, who imported it from India through traders in the Bosphorus. The name is thought to be derived from upala, the Sanskrit word for stone.
The opal is believed to be one of the luckiest birthstones, containing the virtues of all other gemstones.
Did you know?
- Opal is the birthstone for October.
- NASA announced in 2008 that it had discovered opal deposits on Mars.
- In the Middle Ages, people believed the opal to contain all the virtues of each gemstone whose colour was represented in the stone.
- One of the most famous opals is the Andamooka Opal, set with diamonds into an 18ct palladium necklace and presented to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her first visit to Australia in 1954.
- Opal is absorbent, and water taken in through cracks enhances the irridescence, while grease dulls it.
- Opal jewellery is often given to celebrate a 34th wedding anniversary.