Discover the Mystical World of Opal History

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Opal is a gemstone that has been highly valued throughout history for its unique beauty and mystical properties. This precious stone has been used in jewelry making, decorative objects, and even medicine. 

With its captivating colors and iridescence, Opal has become one of the most sought-after gemstones in the world. In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating world of Opal, its history, types, uses, and more.

What is Opal?

Opal

Opal is a hydrated amorphous form of silica that is formed from the slow precipitation of mineral-rich water in rock cavities. It is composed of tiny spheres arranged in a three-dimensional pattern that diffracts light to create its characteristic play-of-color. It comes in a range of colors, including white, yellow, orange, red, green, blue, pink, and black.

Opal can be distinguished from other gems by its unique internal structure, which creates a “play of color” effect as the stone is moved.

This effect is caused by the diffraction of light through microscopic silica spheres within the stone. This makes it a truly unique gemstone that cannot be compared to any other type of gemstone.

History of Opal

Opal has a long and rich history dating back to ancient times. The ancient Greeks believed that its were formed from the tears of joy shed by Zeus when he defeated the Titans. The Romans also held this belief and regarded opals as a symbol of purity and hope.

In medieval Europe, opals were considered to bring good luck and protect against evil spirits. However, during the 14th century, its became associated with bad luck and were blamed for causing misfortune and disease.

This superstition persisted until the 19th century when Queen Victoria of England declared her love for the gemstone and wore it jewelry throughout her reign.

Types of Opal

There are several types of opals, each with its unique characteristics, color, and pattern. The most popular types of opal include the following:

  • White opal: This type of opal is characterized by a white or light gray body color with flashes of color. It is the most common type of opal and is found in Australia.
  • Black opal: is the rarest and most valuable type of it. It has a dark body color that ranges from black to dark gray and displays vibrant colors that appear to be suspended within the stone. Black opals are usually found in Lightning Ridge, Australia.
  • Boulder opal: is formed when it deposits form within ironstone rocks. It is characterized by a natural dark backing and a range of colors that can be seen on the surface of the stone.
  • Fire opal: is a transparent to translucent opal that has a distinct orange to red body color. It is found in Mexico, the United States, and parts of South America.

Where is Opal Found?

Opal is found in various locations worldwide, including Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, the United States, and Ethiopia. However, Australia is the primary source of opal production, accounting for over 90% of the world’s supply.

The majority of Australian opal comes from three main regions: Lightning Ridge, Coober Pedy, and Andamooka. These areas produce high-quality its that are sought after by collectors and jewelry makers worldwide.

How to Identify Real Opal?

Identifying real opal requires some knowledge and experience. Here are some things to look for when identifying its:

  • Play of color: should display a play of color effect when viewed from different angles. The colors should change and move as the stone is moved.
  • Internal structure: have a distinct internal structure that creates the play of color effect. This structure can be seen under magnification.
  • Hardness: has a hardness of 5.5 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale, which means it is relatively soft compared to other gemstones.
  • Transparency: can be transparent, translucent, or opaque. Most opals are opaque or translucent.

Uses of Opal

Opal has been used for various purposes throughout history, including jewelry making, decorative objects, and medicine. Here are some of the most common uses of opal:

Opal in Jewelry Making

Opal jewelry

Opal is a popular choice for jewelry makers due to its unique beauty and color. It can be cut into different shapes, including round, oval, pear, and square, and can be set in various types of jewelry, including rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.

Black opals are the most valuable and sought-after type of it for jewelry making. They are often set in white gold or platinum tocomplement their dark body color and enhance their vibrant play-of-color. White opals are also popular for jewelry making, and they are often set in yellow gold to complement their light body color.

 doublets and triplets are also commonly used in jewelry making. These are composed of a thin slice of it glued onto a darker backing material (doublet) or sandwiched between a clear top layer (triplet). This enhances the play of color and improves the stone’s durability.

Decorative Objects

Opal has been used to create decorative objects such as vases, bowls, and figurines. Its unique beauty and iridescence make it a desirable material for creating stunning pieces of art.

Medicinal Uses

Opal has also been used for medicinal purposes throughout history. It was believed to have healing properties that could relieve anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues.

In ancient times,  powder was mixed with water and consumed as a remedy for various ailments.

Caring 

Opal is a delicate gemstone that requires proper care and handling to maintain its beauty and luster. Here are some tips for caring:

  • Avoid exposing to extreme temperature changes, as this can cause cracking.
  • Do not expose to chemicals, detergents, or oils, as these can damage the stone.
  • Clean with a mild soap and warm water solution using a soft brush or cloth.
  • Store in a soft cloth or pouch to protect it from scratches and damage.
  • Avoid wearing while doing household chores or engaging in strenuous activities.

Famous Opal Mines

Australia is home to some of the world’s most famous opal mines. Here are some of the most notable mines:

Lightning Ridge

Lightning Ridge is located in New South Wales, Australia, and is known for producing some of the finest black opals in the world. The mining town is named after the frequent lightning strikes that occur in the area.

Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy is located in South Australia and is known for its opal mining industry. It is also known for its unique underground homes, which were created to escape the heat of the Australian desert.

Andamooka

Andamooka is a small town located in South Australia and is known for producing high-quality crystal opals. The town’s it fields were discovered in the 1930s and have been mined ever since.

Myths and Legends 

Myths and Legends

Opal has been surrounded by many myths and legends throughout history. In ancient times, it was believed to bring good luck, protection from evil spirits, and the ability to see the future.

However, during the Middle Ages, it became associated with bad luck and was blamed for causing disease and misfortune.

One of the most famous opals is the Black Prince’s Ruby, which is actually not a ruby but a large red spinel. The stone was set in the British Imperial State Crown and was believed to have belonged to Edward, the Black Prince of England.

Legend has it that the stone was cursed and would bring misfortune to whoever wore it.

Conclusion

Opal is a truly unique gemstone that has captivated people’s hearts for centuries. Its iridescence and play of color make it a desirable material for jewelry making and decorative objects. With its rich history and legends, it remains one of the most mystical and fascinating gemstones in the world.

Proper care and handling are required to maintain the beauty and luster of this delicate gemstone. Opal is mined primarily in Australia, with Lightning Ridge, Coober Pedy, and Andamooka being some of the most famous opal mining locations.