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The opal


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1. The property of the opal
2. The colors of the opal
3. How are the opals classified?
4. The history of the opal
5. How do opals form?
6. Where can I find opals?
7. Where does the name Opal come from?
8. What does opal cost?
9. How can imitation opals be recognized?
10. How can an opal be cared for and cleaned?
11. What healing effects does the opal have?
12. Jewelry with opal


1. The property of the opal

The opal is a water-containing mineral. It contains about 5-10% water, which is located in tiny pores. It is made up of small silicon dioxide spheres and shows a beautiful shimmer, which is also called opalization. The opals are a group of three precious stones: precious opals, fire opals and common opals.

2. The colors of the opal

When the sunlight hits it, the opal glows in extraordinary colors that are reminiscent of the play of colors of the sea or a rainbow. This great gemstone offers a color spectrum from gray to blue, amber, green, red, orange to brown, black or colorless, transparent and white. The colors of the opal are natural and make it a unique material. But how do the colors of the opal come about? How does the fascinating play of colors in opals come about? An opal contains small spheres that are arranged close together. The spaces between the spheres are filled with air, steam or water. When light hits the opal, it is refracted differently by the arrangement of the beads. This is how the fascinating colors of the opal are created and it changes its color when you turn it in the light, because the incidence of light and the refraction change.

3. How are the opals classified?

Precious opal

The precious opals are characterized by a fascinating shimmer in the colors of the rainbow, which is also called opalizing. Especially with round cut precious opals, the iridescence becomes clear when the stone is moved in the light. Where does the opal shimmer come from? And how does opalization come about? Tiny spheres made of the mineral cristobalite are responsible for the iridescence or opalization. They are embedded in a silica gel mass and cause reflection or interference phenomena, which creates opalization. The thicker the spheres inside the opal, the greater the range of colors that can be admired on the stone, and the more intense the colors.

The precious opals can be subdivided again according to their color. Here you can see the types of precious opals and their properties:

  • White opal: white basic color, colorful play of colors
  • Black opal: dark basic color, wonderful play of colors
  • Opal matrix: Adhesion of precious opal with host rock
  • Boulder opal: dark basic color, play of colors
  • Harlequin Opal: transparent
  • Jelly Opal: blue-gray, only a slight play of colors
  • Crystal opal: colorless background, red reflections
  • Girasol: colorless, bluish glow

Fire opal

The fire opal is named after its fiery red color, which it mostly has. The color palette of the fire opals also ranges from yellow to red. They rarely become opalescent. The colors are rather milky and cloudy and only sometimes clear. The fire opal is found mainly in Mexico.

Common opal

The common opal is mostly transparent and has hardly any play of colors. There are many different trade names for the common opal. Here is an overview of some of them:

  • Agate opal: agate in which there are opal layers
  • Honey opal: yellow opal
  • Hyalite: colorless opal with a strong sheen
  • Kascholong: milky white opal with a mother-of-pearl sheen
  • Moss Opal: Opal with dark dendrites
  • Wax opal: dark yellow opal with a wax sheen
  • Andean opal: various opals from Peru

4. The history of the opal

The opal has been valued in jewelry production since Roman times. The opals that the Romans used came from Slovakia. Opals were also mined and used by the Aztecs in Central America. In 1870 particularly beautiful opal was discovered in Australia and European production decreased. Even today, most of the opals come from Australia, but also from Mexico. In the Art Nouveau era, opals experienced an upswing in use as gemstones, and jewelry with opals has been very popular in Europe ever since.

5. How do opals form?

Opals can form in different ways. The formation is always hydrothermal, but it can happen either in volcanic rocks, in tuffs (rocks that consist of at least 75% volcanic ash), in various sedimentary rocks or in organic remains. Opal stones often appear together with chalcedony. Mostly opals come in the form of bulbs, teardrop-shaped structures, veins or crusts. The gemstones form in the cavities of rocks. These rocks contain a silicon dioxide solution that drains water over time. This causes the silica spheres to separate from the solution and rearrange themselves in a regular pattern. The fascinating play of colors of the opal then comes about through the beads.

6. Where can I find opals?

Until some time ago, the best opals were found in Slovakia. Then the Australian deposits became known. There are also numerous occurrences of opals in Queensland. Other countries where opals are found, for example, are Ethiopia, Brazil, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, and Russia. Black opals are found in Australia (mainly in the opal field at Lightning Ridge in the state of New South Wales) and white opals are mainly in South Australia.

7. Where does the name Opal come from?

The opal was made by the Romans opalus called. This is the Latin form of the Sanskrit word upala, which means something like "valuable stone". Hence the name of the opal comes from.

8. What does opal cost?

How expensive an opal is depends very much on its color. The value of the gemstones increases, the more even and intense the coloring. Red is the most expensive in opals because it is rare. Other colors such as yellow, green or blue are less expensive. The price for a natural opal pendant is around € 100.

9. How can imitation opals be recognized?

Since black opals are particularly popular because they show off the play of colors best, the method of blackening light opals is being used more and more.

To make the opals less sensitive, they are usually put together with one or two other materials. With loose stones this can be easily seen with a magnifying glass, but with gemstones it is very difficult to make out doublets or triplets. Duplicates are made with a base made of quartz and triplets, for example, with two layers of quartz.

Imitations of opal are made from glass and plastics. In order to imitate the shimmer of the precious opal, many glittering materials are melted into the imitations. The production of a synthesis of white and black opal first succeeded in the USA, then also in Russia. Therefore, as a precaution, you should always have the opals checked before buying. A gemological certificate provides information about the authenticity of the opal.

10. How can an opal be cared for and cleaned?

Opals always contain water. If the gemstone is old, it can dry out and crack over time. This also reduces the shimmering and opalization of the precious opals. In order to at least temporarily fill the cracks, the opal can be placed in an oil bath or simply in water. To prevent the opal from drying out, it is advisable to store the stone in damp cotton wool. So the play of colors of the opal is preserved longer.

The opal is very sensitive to cosmetics, soaps and other cleaning agents, which you should consider when creating jewelry with opals. In addition, the opal is quite sensitive to pressure, which is why particular caution is required with rings or bracelets with opals.

The opal should not be left in the heat for too long. Specifically, this means that long stays in warm cars or direct radiation can damage the opal. Sudden changes in temperature should also be avoided, including washing your hands in hot water. The best thing you can do for your opal is to wear it regularly. Due to the moisture in the skin, the gemstone is well preserved and you will enjoy your jewelry for a long time.

11. What healing effects does the opal have?

Opals are said to have a healing and calming effect on the stomach, intestines and heart. A necklace with an opal, which is worn on the neck, is said to bring relief to swollen lymph nodes and infections. The fire opal can activate the metabolism and help with abdominal complaints. In addition, the opal has a variety of healing effects on the soul. A black opal is even said to help with anxiety and depression.

12. Jewelry with opal

The opal can really turn any piece of jewelry into an eye-catcher, because the incredible play of colors is fascinating on a necklace as well as on an earring. Regardless of which piece of jewelry with opal you choose, follow the care instructions and it is best to wear the jewelry regularly. Golden frames bring out the play of colors of the opal particularly well. And with a golden piece of jewelry that is set with an opal, you can underline your outfit beautifully.