The word opal comes from the Sanskrit Upala, through the Greek opallios which means“to see a change in color.” It is a fascinating jewel and an incredible variety: it can present color schemes of all shades of the rainbow (like black opal), or impress with its deep, vibrant color and transparence, like the opal of fire of Mexico. We distinguish noble opals, very popular in jewelry for their iridescence, from common opals.
The structure of the opals is unique, and consists of microscopic beads of silicon dioxide, arranged in a pyramidal structure interwoven with water veins. The refraction of light through the spaces between these spheres is at the origin of the characteristic color play of Opal (opalescence). These flashes of color occur depending on the change in angle at which the opal is viewed. Opals with no play of color, such as Fire Opal, are those in which the silicon dioxide is randomly organized.
Here are the different types of opales :
- Fire opal, hyacinth red to fiery red, transparent to translucent ;
- Milk white opal, milky white to white-yellow or white-blue, translucent with a glassy to matt luster; some have veins and masses of manganese oxide, these are dendritic opals.
- Woody opal consists of opalized trunks or branches. The rings of the wood are clearly visible. This opal is fragile.
- Hydrophane (or opal matrix) is white, matte and sticks to the tongue. Rather opaque, it has the property of changing its appearance if it is immersed in water. It then becomes more transparent and can become iridescent.
- Hyalite has great transparency, it is colorless with slight blue or green tones.
- Jelly opal is gray-blue with some light effects.
- Harlequin opal has beautiful iridescent sequins of all colors, it is very popular.
The opal is formed when water leaches silica and deposits it on layers of sandy clay during a drought. It is sometimes found instead of shells or bones. The location of the gems in the mine is therefore unpredictable, they must be searched by hand or with small machines to avoid the risk of breaking.
In the past, opals came from Egypt, India or Saudi Arabia. Nowadays, it is Australia that produces 90% of the opals sold in the world, precious gems and very high quality. These deposits were discovered by the German geologist Johannes Menge and 1849. One of them, Lightning Ridge, revealed opalized dinosaur skeletons.
Other opal producing countries are Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia and the United States.
In meditation, opal is considered one of the most powerful stones for the soul. It is known as a stone that heals broken hearts and restores inner harmony. It is also said that it helps the wearer to discover true love.
The Greeks believed that opal was a source of hope and a symbol of purity. It was known to increase clairvoyance, to make meditation and reflection easier, to improve intuition.
Today in lithotherapy, we continue to attribute these virtues to opal. It calms and soothes, promotes love and tenderness, improves the sentimental life of Gemini and Aquarius. It opens the spirit to spiritual life and restores vitality to tired people. It is also the birthstone of October.
Opal stone, the national gem of Australia, appeared 110 million years ago, at the time of the dinosaurs. The great climatic changes that the planet experienced at that time resulted in large quantities of silica in solution, which subsequently accumulated in cracks and cavities, thus forming the opal.
Today, 95% of the world's opals are sourced from the Australian Outback. The rarest and most valuable are the black ones from the Lightning Ridge area.
The rich color scheme of some opals gives them exceptional splendor and a mystical aspect. That's why opal is considered one of the most fascinating and legendary stones. In Greek mythology, the gods saw opal as the embodiment of the beauty of all precious stones. It was said that the opals sheltered the tears of Zeus after his victory over the Titans.
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