October Birthstone: Opal
As well as being one of the birthstones for October, Opal is traditionally given as a gift for a 14th wedding anniversary. The play of colour in an Opal, called opalescence, consists of iridescent colour flashes that change with the angle of the stone. In ancient times, the Opal was known as the ‘Queen of Gems’ because it encompassed the colours of all other gems. Approximately 97% of the worlds’ opals come from Australia with the rest coming from Ethiopia, Mexico, Brazil and the United States of America.
Like fingerprints, each opal is completely unique. Some people prefer the bright flashes of red, yellow and orange while others prefer the calming blue, white and greens. To some opals represent hope, purity and innocence and it is believed that wearing an opal can bring healing, help with depression and help find the owner find true love. Regardless of your preference or belief, you are guaranteed to find an opal that you’ll treasure.
Types of Opal:
– Black Opals: Black opals are the most valued and high-quality ones are rare. Black opal shows a play of colour within or on a dark body tone when viewed from the face-up.
– White Opals: Natural opals with a base tone ranging from colourless to medium grey are called light opal. Some people refer to these as ‘white’ although this expression should only be used where the body colour is very milky. Light opal makes up the bulk of precious opal.
– Matrix Opal: The term matrix opal is commonly used where the opal is intimately diffused as infillings of pores or holes between grains of the host rock in which it was formed.
– Boulder Opals: Boulder is a variety of precious opal that has the host rock forming naturally as part of the gem. Often just a thin vein of precious opal is present. Boulder opal can be black or light depending on the appearance of the stone when viewed from the surface. This horse head pendant features an Australian Boulder Opal.
Opal for Jewellery:
– Doublet: Consists of 2 layers, a thin slice of opal and a black backing
– Triplet: Similar to doublets, triplets also include a third transparent layer on the top made of quartz or glass to protect the opal and give it a rounder shape.
– Solid: Natural solid opal which has only been cut and polished.
Caring for your Opal jewellery:
Opal is a soft stone (5.5-6.5 on Moh’s hardness scale, as a comparison, diamonds rate a 10 and pearls a 3-4), it is important to treat your opal jewellery carefully to avoid damaging it. Most precious opals contain about 5-6% water, as a result, they may crack if exposed to very dry conditions or rapid changes in heat. Because Doublets and triplets consist of multiple layers glued together, prolonged exposure to water will eventually cause the layers to lift, resulting in a ‘foggy’ grey appearance. To clean opal jewellery it is best to err on the side of caution and simply wipe them with a damp soft cloth and mild detergent. Never soak or immerse your opals.
If you are interested in having a piece of opal jewellery made and we don’t have the opal you are looking for in stock, we can source some stones to show you from our contacts around the world.