Throughout history, opal has always been considered an electrifyingly beautiful gemstone, thanks to its spectacular play of colors. From ancient Greek mythology to the opulent jewelry collections of the late 19th and early 20th century, opal has been revered as a gemstone that embodies mystique, elegance, and sophistication. Today, opal jewelry remains an enduring trend, its timeless appeal adding a touch of glamour to any outfit or style. In this article, we’ll explore the history, characteristics, and beauty of opal jewelry.
What is Opal?
Opal is a sedimentary stone that is mainly composed of silicon dioxide and water. Its play of colors comes from its unique microstructure, which diffracts light and refracts different colors. This gives opal its radiant colors, which can vary from blue, green, pink, and orange, to red and purple. Opals can vary in size and shape, and can be a solid color or have small flecks of color that appear as sparkling dots when viewed under light.
Opal has been popular for centuries thanks to its distinctive beauty, and has been found in various parts of the world, including Australia, Brazil, Ethiopia, and Mexico.
History of Opal
Opal has a long and rich history that stretches back to ancient times. It was valued for its beauty by the Ancient Greeks and Romans, who believed that it brought luck and good fortune.
The name “opal” comes from the Latin word “opalus”, which means “precious stone”. According to an ancient Greek legend, opal was created by the tears of joy that Zeus shed when he defeated the Titans. The ancient Romans believed opal was a symbol of hope and purity, and it was often worn as a talisman for good luck.
During the Middle Ages, opal was thought to have magical powers, and was worn as a protective amulet by many people. However, it fell out of favor during the Renaissance, when superstitions associated with opal were circulated. It wasn’t until the discovery of a large opal deposit in Australia in the 19th century that opal gained popularity once again.
Opal jewelry has been a treasured centerpiece of many collections from the earliest days of human history. Its beauty and rarity made it an ideal choice for royalty and nobility, who often used it in fine jewelry to showcase their wealth and prestige. Today, opal jewelry remains a popular collectible, worn and loved by many.
Opal Jewelry’s Characteristics
One of the most alluring things about opal jewelry is its unique beauty, where every stone is different and no two pieces are exactly the same. This makes opal the ideal choice for customized jewelry that can be designed to suit any style preference. Furthermore, opal jewelry can be made into any shape, making it perfect for unique pieces, including engagement rings, pendants, earrings, and bracelets.
Types of Opals
There are three main types of opals:
1. Precious Opal: Precious opal is the type of opal that is most commonly used in jewelry. It has a white or light-colored body color and has a play of colors that range from vibrant reds, oranges, and greens.
2. Common Opal: Common opal has a uniform color and is mostly opaque. It is often used as a backing material for other precious stones.
3. Fire Opal: Fire opal, also known as Mexican opal, is found in Mexico and has a bright orange, yellow, or red body color. Its play of colors is much less pronounced than that of precious opal, and it is often made into cabochons for pendants and earrings.
Opal’s Significance in Different Cultures
Opal has been valued and prized by different cultures throughout history, particularly in Australian Aboriginal cultures, where opal is believed to be a sacred stone.
In the Middle Ages, opal was considered a talisman and was believed to protect the wearer from harm.
The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that opal was a symbol of hope and purity and could bring good fortune.
Opal used to be considered an unlucky gemstone, but in recent years that superstition has passed, and it is now widely appreciated and admired.
Caring for Opal Jewelry
Opal is a delicate and porous gemstone that requires special care to keep it looking its best. Some tips to keep your opal jewelry looking its best include:
1. Store your opal jewelry in a dry location that’s safe from scratches.
2. Avoid exposing opal to extreme heat or cold temperatures, as this can lead to cracking or crazing.
3. Clean opal jewelry with a soft, damp cloth and avoid using harsh abrasives or chemicals.
4. Take your opal jewelry to a reputable jeweler for professional cleaning and maintenance.
Ultimately, opal jewelry is a timeless and stunning addition to any collection. Opal’s unique beauty, rarity, and history make it an exceptional gemstone, one that has attracted admirers for millennia. It is a precious and fragile stone that needs careful handling and appropriate care, but if looked after well, it can last for generations, bringing its mystical beauty to future generations.