Opal: A Precious Stone with a World of Colors

Coobe Pedy Opal Doublet Mineral
Coober Pedy Opal Doublet Mineral

Due to its exuberant display of color, opal has often been compared with erupting volcanoes, galaxies and fireworks. A stone exhibiting such grandeur inherently appears mystic and mysterious. And we humans  are always intrigued and fascinated by such characteristics. Therefore, opal comes in an elite category of stones that have always been appreciated and revered the world over.

What is an Opal?

The opal stone is classified as mineraloid, a mineral-like substance that doesn’t possess the characteristics of crystalline structures. Opal is an amorphous form of silica which displays a mix of various colors giving it its enhanced enchantment quality. The colors are borne out of the chemical and physical conditions in which the stone is formed.

Most common opals have green and white hues, while black opals are considered to be the rarest. Let’s look into the history of opal to know how this gemstone has been perceived over time.

Historical Journey of the Opal

Opal became mainstream with its discovery in South Australia in the 18th century. However, anthropology tells us that opals were in use way before this discovery.

An opal artifact was discovered from a cave in Kenya which dates back to 4000 B.C. According to anthropologists, these artifacts were brought over from Ethiopia.

Apart from that, opal is also depicted in many ancient paintings as a part of ornaments and jewelry. In ancient Europe, Hungary was the origin of opal mining and it is believed that Spanish soldiers introduced this stone to the rest of the world in the 16th century.

Name’s Origin

The historical significance of opal can also be authenticated by the origin of the name ‘Opal’.

  • According to some references, the name opal is derived from a Sanskrit word ‘Upala’ which means ‘precious stone’.
  • Many historians associate the word opal with ancient Rome where two languages were dominant, Latin and Greek. A Latin word ‘Opalus’ means ‘precious stone’ is also thought of as the origin of the name, while the Greek word ‘Opallios’ meaning ‘to see a color change’ is also considered to be a strong contender for the origin of the word Opal.

It is quite evident that whichever origin story you want to buy, the characteristics of opal have always been linked to magnificence.

Types of Opal

Opal is categorized into different types according to its optical density and colors. There are numerous types of opals according to their appearance, however we will discuss the ones that are found commonly and are more popular among all the different types.

Fire Opal: They are mostly mined from Western Australia and contain the background color combination of yellow and red with an overall semi-transparent appearance.

Black Opal: Opals are called black due to less transparency which makes their appearance darker. Black opal exhibits beautiful play of color which makes them one of the most attractive and popular opals out there.

Boulder Opal: This type of opal is basically housed in the fractures of a stone in the form of vein like meshwork. These opals are mostly mined along with their host stone so that the opal remains in its natural state.

Common Opal: Common opals have the highest opacity and does not exhibit any play of color. However, common opals can be used in ornaments due to their lustrous appearance.

Gem Therapy with Opal

Gem therapy has been practiced in a plethora of cultures around the world. Although, not scientifically proven, anecdotal evidence  suggests that gems do have healing powers. With that said, some health benefits that might be associated with opal are:

  • Fire opal is thought of having healing power for blood related diseases. Its psychological benefits include getting rid of laziness and depression.
  • Black opal has therapeutic benefits for reproductive disorders. By wearing black opal people can also get rid of the stress that comes with those reproductive disorders.
  • White opals are considered very effective for people who have been experiencing neurological disorders.
  • People who are facing sleeping disorders and have frequent nightmares can wear almost any kind of opal stone. Opal is known to relax and therefore, help you sleep.

Zodiac Association of Opal

Opal is considered as the gemstone for the month of October in the Gregorian calendar. It is said to be a suitable gemstone for all those zodiac signs that are ruled by Mercury. People with zodiac signs of Cancer, Libra, Pisces and Scorpio might want to wear opal for its potential benefits.

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