The precious opal stone is connected to love, hope, several healing properties, and emotional well-being. It’s an exquisite stone with many meanings that are visually symbolised thanks to its swirling array of mystical colours and unique patterns.
Discover why the Romans considered the opal their most valuable gemstone and explore the origins of this fascinating stone.
Where does opal come from?
Opals can be found all over the planet, particularly in Brazil, Mexico, Honduras, Ethiopia, Central Europe, Indonesia, and the West Coast of the USA. However, Australia produces around 95% of the world’s precious opals, where they were first mined commercially, and the opal is the country’s official national gemstone.
Opals are made from small spheres of silica (a compound of silicon and oxygen) interspersed with water. They are formed when deposits of silica in water seep into cracks between rock layers. Once the water evaporates, solid silica is left behind.
The aptly named Lightning Ridge in Australia’s New South Wales is known for producing some of the world’s finest black opals. Coober Pedy in South Australia is the leading producer of white opal, while boulder opals are mined in Queensland.
What colour is opal?
The colour of an opal depends on the conditions in which it is formed.
Opal can be transparent, translucent, or opaque, with several background colours. Common body colours include white, yellow, grey, black, and brown. However, unlike other gems, opal can display all rainbow colours.
The fire opal is recognisable by its intense red, orange and yellow colours, while the boulder opal is finished with fragments of the rock it formed next to.
White opals have a white or milky base colour. It has a large production, making it one of the most common opal gemstones.
The black opal is unique in the opal family, as it is the only type to contain carbon and iron oxide traces. These additions give the stone an unusual darkness.
The common opal is anything but ordinary. Named for its lack of flash or ‘play of colour’ seen in other opals, it comes in many beautiful pastel hues, making it popular for opal jewellery.
Perhaps the most extravagant in appearance is the crystal opal, a transparent to semi-transparent gemstone with a clear background. This opal style shows exceptional ‘play of colour’, transforming as it moves and catches the light.
What do opals symbolise?
The meaning of opal has many fascinating origins, attached to several myths and folklore.
Thanks to their colourful array, opals were thought to contain the benefits and powers of all coloured stones. The Romans believed opals were the most powerful precious gem and a symbol of love. Thought to promote passion, it was commonly and aptly referred to as the Cupid stone, thought to promote passion.
Nomadic Arab tribes believed opals fell to Earth during thunderstorms, holding fragments of lightning inside. Ancient Greeks accredited opals with the power to see into the future, while others believed opals granted invisibility powers, improved eye health, and reduced PMS or childbirth pain.
Opals are also thought to provide mental and emotional healing properties. Many use the gemstone to provide balance and harmony to their lives. It’s also a hope stone, promoting positive change while releasing old wounds and patterns.
More commonly, opal birthstones are used to celebrate October birthdays. Couples can also commemorate a 24th and 34th wedding anniversary through opal gifts, and opal engagement rings are a popular choice for soon-to-be brides.
The various colours and hues of the gemstone make opal jewellery popular and a versatile gift.
However, opals have a 5.5 to 6.5 Mohs hardness rating (diamond being the hardest at 10), meaning they are susceptible to scratches if not adequately cared for.
To maintain its natural beauty and unique colour, opal jewellery is better suited for occasional and sentimental items.
Stud or drop-style opal earrings are ideal for adding a touch of sparkle to a special outfit. Opal necklaces usually come in pendants, showcasing the gem in all its spectacular glory. A classically designed opal ring is a fantastic present, sure to become a cherished keepsake.
The best thing about opal jewellery is that it comes in several colours, making it perfect to pair with various outfits and styles.